The plan for WFM Area 2 was supposed to have already started for 2021 but is on hold due to the regional district manager rescinding approval on the project, according to BL Comfor general manager. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)

The plan for WFM Area 2 was supposed to have already started for 2021 but is on hold due to the regional district manager rescinding approval on the project, according to BL Comfor general manager. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)

BL Comfor will do more wildfire management in 2021

Hoping for support from local district manager to help mitigate fire risks for the community

The Burns Lake Community Forest’s (BL Comfor) 2020 season went pretty well, however for 2021, hurdles from the local district manager’s office might make things difficult, according to General Manager Frank Varga.

“I think it went pretty well. I mean we did have a very wet year, so we were definitely challenged and had to be shut down a few times because the conditions just didn’t give us the opportunity to continue carrying out the harvesting salvaging activities. But we fully took on the Wildfire Management (WFM) project’s WFM Area 1 and got through probably a good 50 per cent of harvesting activities that we wanted to,” he said.

The WFM Area 1 is the the area just south of Burns Lake. This area has been extensively impacted by Mountain Pine Beetle and has been blowing down as can be observed from town, said Varga. This area is 60-80 per cent dead pine leading.

“The project area is about 1152 hectares (ha), of which we have completed salvage operations to date on about 500ha. Of this 500ha we have completed hazard abatement piling, spacing and pruning to support landscape fire mitigation efforts. Unfortunately we were unable to complete all our operational activities in 2020 but we plan on coming back to the area in 2021 and finalize harvest operations followed by hazard abatement raking, piling and burning. Due to the lack of good weather window we were unable to complete our planned fall 2020 landscape prescribed burn. The plan is in place and ready for 2021 implementation,” said Varga.

However, the plan for WFM Area 2 which spans the Spud/Shack Tchesinkut Lake area and was expected to have already started for 2021, is at a standstill due to the ministry of forest’s regional district manager rescinding approval on the project.

“We had plans to commence phase 2 of landscape fire mitigation efforts (WFM2-Area) as contemplated by the Landscape Fire Mitigation Plan that was developed by B.A Blackwell and Associates, this fall and throughout 2021-2022. Burns Lake Community Forest invested well over $500,000 in planning, developing, and assessments including visual quality design, and grizzly bear habitat assessments. Unfortunately, the District Manager rescinded his commitments on supporting Burns Lake Community on constrain removal for the VQO,” said Varga.

The VQO that Varga mentions is a visual quality exemption that the BL Comfor had sought, to ensure that they legally have the permission to do a prescribed burn in the area. The community of Burns Lake is surrounded by hillsides, and those areas as part of the Land and Resource Management plan were identified as visual-quality polygons – areas where industrial activities needed to manage a certain visual value.

“Basically what happened is they restricted the intensity and the amount somebody could harvest on any particular hillside and they restricted it to a certain percentage that we were allowed to alter that landscape. That can work very well in a green forest where everything is green; so there it is very possible to do more extensive partial harvesting or removing only 50 per cent, 30 per cent or 20 per cent of trees – basically different alterations of percentages. The problem we are having is that the landscape around the community of Burns Lake is not all green, the only things green are the plantations; the forests that have been previously harvested. Everything else is either dead and/or dying. Primarily because there is so much pine in this area, and that’s the landscape,” said Varga.

The community forest was supposed to have started harvesting the area in the Fall of 2020 however that plan has now been put on hold and will only move forward after the district manager’s approval.

“Fire is essential on these ecosystems to promote new vegetation growth, promote new suckering of herbaceous vegetation that is critical to moose, critical for deer, bears; the fire creates breaks up the land-base and it is just a critical factor; I can’t emphasize enough how important fire is on the land-base. So for 2021, that was kind of the main focus, and as a result of not having that visual quality exemption being supported, I am not able to commence which is very disappointing,” he said.

The community forest is now hoping to implement WFM 1 Prescribed Burn Plan and associated activities, continue efforts of landscape fire treatments, have a full silviculture operational program of planting about 1.2 million seedlings, conduct a survey of about 2000ha of existing planted forest, commence implementation of Access Management Plan — specifically with further collaboration between the ATV and snowmobile club, continue work on community forest area assessment of streams with 2021 being the third year of this project, host their Annula General Meeting with a public open-house and BBQ and ensure attendance at Fall Fair — subject to this event being hosted in 2021.

The community forest board is also hoping to garner local support for the WFN Area 2 plan and hopes that the local district manager reconsiders visual quality exemption.

“Without these legal exceptions or exemptions, BL Comfor cannot proceed in implementing its landscape fire plan which supports our communities social and economically. Furthermore, BL Comfor will not be able to complete its ecosystem restoration activities of prescribed burning. The District Manager has essentially put the community of Burns Lake, and the community forest sustainability and its infrastructure at an elevated risk,” said Varga.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

Like us on Facebook and follows us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

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

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Lake Babine Nation closure sign
Lake Babine Nation issues COVID numbers update

Urges members to follow provincial health orders

NH representative confirmed that people who received their first dose will be scheduled to receive their second dose within the recommended timeframe.(The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette photo)
Vaccine rollout abruptly halted in Lakes District

Northern Health cites Pfizer shipment delays for the vaccine distribution disruption

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Most Read