Glyphosate herbicide is applied to a logged area after seedlings are replanted. (Doug Pitt/Natural Resources Canada)

Glyphosate herbicide is applied to a logged area after seedlings are replanted. (Doug Pitt/Natural Resources Canada)

Chemical spraying in B.C. cuts natural forest firebreaks

The forestry practice of eliminating aspen stands is contributing to the intensity of forest fires in British Columbia.

Broadleaf trees like aspen act as natural fireguards because they’re less flammable than coniferous species.

But under forestry regulations, species like aspen are regarded as competitors with coniferous trees, which are preferred for their harvestable timber.

As a result, aspen are often eliminated by spraying with the herbicide glyphosate, the cheapest way of removing competition.

READ MORE: Burns Lake sawmills think outside the box to increase timber supply

“Chemical brushing with herbicides is one of the techniques Canfor uses to reduce this competition and increase seedling survival,” company spokesperson Michelle Ward told Lakes District News.

Ward explained that in the Houston area less than 5 per cent of the 5,400-5,600 hectare harvest area is sprayed to eliminate competitor species, which also includes grasses and fireweed.

Forestry companies are required by law to reduce competition with the main stock species.

Section 46.11(2) of the Forest and Range Practices Act Regulations states that no more than 2 ha, or 5 per cent of a reforested area is exempt from the “stocking standards.”

In everyday language, the stocking standards refer to commercial species like pine, spruce or Douglas fir, and non-commercial species like birch or aspen must be eliminated if their stands are larger than 2 ha.

“The problem is you’re precluding the existence of firebreaks. You need a 10-20 hectare patch of it. If it’s only 2 ha it’s too small, it’s useless as a firebreak. And this rule is applied across a huge area,” said James Steidle of the group Stop the Spray B.C.

Broadleaf species aren’t only essential as natural fireguards but in the larger forest ecosystem many species of birds build their nests in aspens where there are more insects for them to eat, and moose often graze on aspen.

The good news is that public opposition means glyphosate spraying is rarely done in the Lakes District, said Phil Burton, a professor of Ecosystem Science at UNBC.

In the licensed area of Hampton Lumber – owner of Babine and Decker Lake Products – no cut blocks have been sprayed in the last 20 years, said Steve Zika, CEO of Hampton Lumber.

Some even better news is that on a provincial level the areas sprayed with glyphosate have gone down from 18,546 ha in 2015 to 12,812 ha in 2017, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

For the Nadina district, 105 ha was sprayed in 2015, 197 in 2016 and 128 last year.

READ MORE: B.C. forestry ministry cutting back on use of herbicide glyphosate

However, aspen stands are still sometimes removed from forests in this region by other means.

“People [also] do it with saws. The main difference is that usually they’ll sprout back after being cut with a saw. But with the glyphosates it affects the roots as well, and reduces the chances of them growing back,” Burton said.

In the context of last summer’s intensive wildfires, wider swathes of aspen could help ensure future fires are less destructive.

“We need to re-open our land use plans and recognize the need for community protection zones in which getting that crop of conifer trees isn’t the priority, but rather reducing fire susceptibility,” he said.

“Maybe we should even plant belts of broadleaf trees around First Nations communities and villages and towns. So we can designate fire protection as a priority.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Kristy Bjarnason will be filling in the position left vacant by Darrell Hill. (Councillor Kristy Bjarnason Facebook photo/Lakes District News)
Kristy Bjarnason elected to be the new councillor

Preliminary election results for the 2021 by-election declared

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Most Read