Community Forester responds to Letter

Duncan McKellar


This letter is in response to a letter by Jonathan Howe, published in the Oct 2 issue of the Tumbler Ridge News.

Dear Mr. Howe:

First and foremost, I would like to thank-you for your letter of September 17, 2014.  Your feedback is valued and it demonstrates an interest in the Community Forest and its local forest management activities which is appreciated.  The Community Forest encourages all citizens’ to be engaged in our local forest planning.  Further, I was delighted to see you at our AGM on October 4, 2014 and hope you found the meeting dialogue informative.

I would like to formally respond to the concerns raised in your letter to the editor on October 2, 2014 in the Tumbler Ridge News, regarding the Community Forest plan to treat the forest stand adjacent to the golf course road as per the August 2014 Wildfire Protection Plan recommendations. The following outlines the rationale for the required forest treatment.

In 2013, to create administrative efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars, the Municipality entered into a contract with the Community Forest to manage the Tumbler Ridge Wildfire Mitigation Program.  As part of this responsibility, the Community Forest procured a grant from Union of British Columbia Municipalities to update the 2006 Wildfire Protection Plan which included incorporating any updated land-use planning that had occurred in Tumbler Ridge.   The 2014 Wildfire Protection Plan assessment identified the golf course road stand area as a “High Wildfire Threat” to the community and recommended a harvest entry into the stand to reduce this threat.

The golf road stand is situated on Crown land and is not within the Municipal boundary. This pine stand is over mature and in a declining state.  The stand has approximately 40% dead or dying trees which escalate the fire hazard.  The fire hazard will continue to increase as the dead trees collapse to the forest floor creating forest fuels.

Lodge pole pine stands are referred to as pyro-climax species which require fire to regenerate. In the natural order of ecology, this type of stand would be consumed by wildfire and the serotinous cones (open only under extreme heat to release seeds) would open releasing seeds to regenerate the area with a pine dominated stand. If no treatment occurs, this stand will continue to degenerate as the crown’s current management strategy is fire suppression for our province’s forest landbase. Thus, no treatment would increase wildfire risk to the surrounding area and would increase the threat to the community.

Due to the stands location and the various forest attributes of the area such as visual quality, the prescription endorses a treatment regime of select harvest.  This is similar to the select harvest treatment regime that occurred on the area south of town which was completed last spring (2014). As the golf road stand is located on Crown land, the Community Forest Licence also requires reforestation of this area in a timely manner.

Your statement “I bring into question, the areas to the south and west of the Trend hotel,…the most unfortunate area of all to befall a logging operation.”  The area you outlined was not under the administration of the Community Forest and we are not prescribing such a treatment.  I bring your attention to the most recent wildfire selection harvest south of the high school. We have received very positive feedback regarding this treatment for wildfire reduction risk.  Residents are discovering increased forest use in this area since the select harvest took place.  A mountain bike trail has been established for local use and there are plans to incorporate a forest interpretive trail.  In addition, the area surrounding the pond located in the center of the treatment area has been identified as a potential forest recreation site. Finally, a large amount of free firewood was removed for local use.  We believe once the golf course road stand is treated to reduce wildfire risk, and the stand can be entered safely, providing more opportunities for local residents.

We are also planning to remove the dead trees along the ski trails in conjunction with the golf road treatment.  If the danger trees (approximately 1000) are not removed from the trail edges, the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources has advised the trials may have to be closed due to safety concerns.

Your statement “open to the interpretation of the faller…will inevitably mean taking more than just non-wind firm spruce throughout the area as the timber value of these trees is far greater than any other tree being removed.” is not accurate.  Similar to the spring 2014 selection harvest, there will be ongoing supervision on the site by a Professional Forester who confirms what trees are removed based on specific site parameters including wind firmness, age, location, aesthetics, danger trees assessment, etc.

As for your statement ”I fear will be left, is 37 hectares of land that has been logged and mulched, devoid of any stands of healthy trees.”.  The selection treatment will include leaving many healthy trees as well as mulching debris to reduce the forest fuels that exist within the stand thus reducing the ground fire risk.  Further, the removal of harvest debris does provide for aesthetic improvement. It is far more economical to pile and burn branches and non usable stems.  However, the resulting smoke could negatively impact the town; hence the prescription treatment includes mulching.

I cannot comment on the harvest activities near Kinuseo Falls as this treatment did not occur under the Community Forest management.

Every wildfire treatment gives us an opportunity to improve our forest management practices as we learn from our site specific treatments.  We are committed to improve methods of wildfire treatment management and are dedicated to soliciting feedback from our community prior to finalizing our treatment prescriptions.  This feedback ensures we develop plans that meet both, the needs of our community and the necessity to reduce wildfire risk in the community we live.

As outlined to you at the Annual General Meeting, I am available to take you or any member of the concerned public on a site tour to further review any specific concerns at your convenience.  Once again, thank you for bringing your concerns forward and I look forward to your continued feedback on the Community Forest activities as your feedback helps us to develop a collaborate plan that considers competing values within our community.

Kind Regards,

Duncan McKellar RFP, MBA

Forest Operations Manager

250 964-2375