Granisle is carrying out a fire safety plan that will see most of the coniferous trees around it cut down and replaced with deciduous species, building a buffer around the village.
About 135 hectares of balsam and spruce will be cut and the area replanted with birch, aspen and cottonwood, Peter Tweedie of Tyhee Forest Consultants told Lakes District News.
Those leafy species are more fire-resistant than coniferous trees and are noted for being natural fireguards.
“Anything deciduous already growing on site will be left there. Some habitat features will be left there, like smaller sizes of conifer trees and nest trees for birds,” Tweedie said.
“We’ll have to hire tree planters to do the birch and cottonwood. But we’re hoping to do natural regeneration for the aspen,” he added.
The harvesting is scheduled to begin in February and will last until March of next year, said Tweedie, whose company manages the Babine Lake Community Forest (BLCF).
Several years ago, concerns over Granisle’s vulnerability to wildfires prompted the community forest to speak with the village about fire mitigation, said BLCF co-director Sonia Clarke.
The wildfires of the last two summers spurred the village to pay more attention to fire mitigation.
In 2017 Clarke and her husband Frederick approached the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and asked for a grant for a mitigation project.
Two years later the proposal has become a reality and the FESBC approved a grant of $401,450 for the fuel mitigation work, which includes “the reduction of forest fuels to a level lower than what is required to abate the fire hazard as required under the Wildfire Act and the Wildfire Regulation and convert some of the stands near the community of Granisle to a species (birch) to create a more fire resilient stand,” said FESBC spokeswoman Aleece Laird.
“Our funding will assist them create a more fire-resilient stand around Granisle,” said Greg Proctor, operations manager with FESBC.
Granisle’s move might satisfy some environmental critics, who have slammed the practice of spraying chemicals to eliminate broadleaf trees which compete with more commercially preferred coniferous species.
Tweedie estimates the final cost for the project will come to about $750,000, including the FESBC grant, $250,000 for the re-planting of deciduous seedlings and another $100,000 for the BLCF’s own costs.
The harvested wood will go to Babine Forest Products and there will be short-term jobs for local residents in the fuel mitigation work.
He expects those economic benefits can be shared between Granisle and Tachet.
“Keep the community in the community forest,” Tweedie said. “That’s part of our mandate. Localize the economic aspect as much as possible.”