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Fire rehabilitation work underway south of Burns Lake

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

With the help of a $1.25-million grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation is rehabilitating tree stands that were severely damaged by wildfires in 2018 and re-establishing productive forest ecosystems.

“This project is an excellent example of how partnerships are improving the health of B.C.’s forests,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in a news release. “The funding that the province provided to back the society’s projects is making a difference and supporting jobs in many parts of British Columbia.”

Work on this project started in May 2020 on the south side of François Lake between Grassy Plains, Ootsa and Cheslatta lakes, about 65 kilometres south of the Village of Burns Lake.

Fire-damaged trees are being removed so the wood can be used, instead of burning fibre that would otherwise be uneconomical to deliver to a processing facility. The grant from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC will help Cheslatta Forest Products (which is 100 per cent owned by the Cheslatta Carrier Nation) cover the costs of shipping the residual fibre to a pellet plant or bioenergy facility. Diverting this fibre from burn piles will result in a net reduction of carbon emissions.

The logging operations were planned with the needs of wildlife in mind, ensuring high-value habitat areas and trees will be preserved. Rehabilitation of these fire-damaged stands will improve wildlife habitat in areas heavily impacted by the 2018 wildfires. The treated areas will be reforested, primarily with spruce seedlings.

“The wildfires of 2018 burned 75 per cent of the Cheslatta Community Forest and even more overall on the territory,” said Ben Wilson, forestry co-ordinator, Cheslatta Carrier Nation. “At Cheslatta, we were proportionally impacted along with everyone else, and our goal was to clean the burned wood off the land base and get it growing green again.”

The Cheslatta Carrier Nation has a proven history in the forest industry. Its members depend on forests not only for cultural well-being, but also to provide financial opportunities. Logging had just begun in its harvest permit area when wildfires burned through much of it in the summer of 2018, resulting is a substantial loss of revenue. This project supports local employment and makes use of community-owned equipment to remove dead wood, providing benefits to the larger community and support for the local economy.

“The Forest Enhancement Society of BC is excited to fund this project to improve forest stands heavily impacted by the 2018 wildfires,” said Gord Pratt, operations manager, Forest Enhancement Society of BC. “The rehabilitation of the ecosystem to pre-fire conditions will improve the damaged forests by creating diverse, healthy stands. It will contribute to the future timber supply and improve many forest values, including wildlife habitat.”

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