Forest Fuels a Burning Issue for Interior BC, Report Finds

VICTORIA – Forest fuel reduction needs to become a priority consideration in forest management policy and practices, especially in the Southern Interior of the province, according to a special report released today.

The Forest Practices Board commissioned a report on forest fuel management last summer and gathered comment on the report from forest management professionals, provincial and federal government agency staff, local governments and the forest industry. Today’s report provides the board’s conclusions and recommendations on this very complex issue.

Forest fuels are living and dead trees, branches, needles and vegetation that will burn in the event of a wildfire. A 60-year history of fire suppression, insect and tree disease epidemics, and logging practices are all contributing to a build-up of fuel. Meanwhile, the encroachment of urban development into forested areas increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

“This is a complex problem,” said board chair Bruce Fraser. “However, we must recognize that areas with excessively high fuels create a risk to the public and to important forest values, such as community watersheds and habitat for endangered species. We need to take action through our forest policy and practices to prevent further fuel build-up. We also need to begin reducing the fuel levels in those areas most at risk.”

“Where prescribed fire is an appropriate tool to reduce fuel levels, consideration must be given to addressing the risks of fire escape and liability, and to public health concerns about smoke.”

In response to the findings of this review, the board makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Clear targets for fuel reduction in important areas need to be established.
  • A provincial system to accurately assess and map fuels is needed.
  • Prescribed fire is the most practical means of reducing forest fuels in appropriate areas and this practice needs to be returned to the landscape.
  • Fuel reduction practices that do not further add to the fuel problem need to be tested and implemented.
  • The provincial government needs to continue to encourage and support fuel reduction activities in wildland-urban interface areas.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog that reports to the public about compliance with the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and the achievement of its intent. The board’s main roles under FRPA are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of FRPA .
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Darlene Oman

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250-356-1340 or 1-800-994-5899

June 19, 2006

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