A season of raging wildfire has spawned an idea to create opportunity for a beleaguered forestry industry.
“A concerted effort to thin forests around municipalities could provide opportunities for out-of-work loggers and contractors, benefiting communities right away while protecting their future,” Richard Cannings, the MP for South Okanagan – West Kootenay writes in a regular report featured in OsoyoosToday.
“We should search for ways for all governments to move this program forward.”
The program of which Mr. Cannings is speaking is the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, administered by the Union of BC Municipalities and the First Nations Emergency Services Society.
It came out of a report commissioned after the “fiery summer of 2003, when hundreds of homes were destroyed in Kelowna and the North Thompson,” Mr. Cannings explains.
“BC commissioned former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon to report on how we could ensure this wouldn’t happen again.”
The report, he said, has accomplished some very good things, including an effort by many communities to develop wildfire protection plans.
But, Mr. Cannings adds, it has done relatively little to actually reduce fire hazards around towns.
“As of last year — 12 years after the report — only 80,000 hectares of interface forests had been treated to reduce fuels, despite the fact that the report identified 685,000 hectares of forest lands as high-risk to communities.”
He encourages both the provincial and federal government to build on the “spirit of cooperation” that has manifest itself this summer as another spate of wildfire roars through BC.
“In the short term, we obviously can’t do anything about the weather. But we could be doing more to make our communities safe from firestorms,” he writes.
“I hope this spirit continues into the months ahead as we look for ways to reduce fire risk.”