Province, Gitxsan team up to rehabilitate area hit by Pope Road wildfire

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

One of the areas hit hardest by this year’s wildfires has reached a milestone in its recovery as a result of close collaboration between the B.C. government and the Gitxsan First Nation.

After the lightning-caused Pope Forest Service Road wildfire was discovered on Aug. 1, 2018, BC Wildfire Service crews and contractors worked hard to get it under control. By the time it was fully contained in early September, the wildfire (located 37 kilometres northwest of Hazelton) had burned over 560 hectares.

All of the land affected by fire suppression activities on the Pope Forest Service Road wildfire has now been fully rehabilitated – the first of the 2018 wildfires in the Northwest Fire Centre to achieve that goal. The work was completed in collaboration with the Gitxsan First Nation, whose traditional territory was directly affected by the fire.

Under the Wildfire Act, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is legally required to rehabilitate areas impacted by wildfire suppression activities. In the case of the Pope Forest Service Road wildfire, this meant:

  • rehabilitating 25.6 kilometres of fireguards (cleared strips of land around a fire’s perimeter to slow its spread)
  • salvaging about 700 cubic metres of wood (cut down to create the fireguards)
  • seeding new grass to help control soil erosion
  • clearing danger trees (trees damaged to the point where they could topple over without warning)
  • restoring natural drainage patterns

“This rehabilitation project was a collaborative effort between the B.C. government and the Gitxsan First Nation,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in a news release. “The 2018 wildfire season was a very difficult one for First Nations and other communities in the Northwest, and this successful partnership reflects our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

“I feel that this is a start of a new future for the Gitxsan people,” said hereditary Chief Xhliiyemlaxha of the Gitxsan First Nation. “We want meaningful consultation and relationships with the government and this is an example of how we can work together for decisions on the land.”

Rehabilitating the impacts of fire suppression activities is the first step in land-based recovery after a wildfire. Ministry staff will continue to work with the Gitxsan First Nation on the next steps in the process, including the development of timber salvage strategies and reforestation plans.