The BC Rocky Mountain Trench (RMT) has an estimated 250,000 hectares departed from historical fire regimes consisting of heavy fuel loads needing thinning and prescribed burning (RMT ER Steering Comm. 2006). Thousands of hectares are in the wildland urban interface (WUI), generally described as a 2 km buffer zone around municipalities, and pose significant wildfire risk (Filmon 2004). Several municipal initiatives within the RMT region have begun fuels treatments on high risk stands.
Causes and effects of the departure from historical fire regimes due to silvicultural practices and fire suppression in BC have been researched (Filmon 2004, Forest Practices Board [FPB] 2006). Initiatives such as the development of Fire Safe Councils in the US and the Fire Smart program and WUI funding in BC have begun to address WUI fuels problems. Many reports and initiatives identify the need for commercial opportunities to economically handle forest biomass to reduce wildfire risk (USDA 2003a, USDA 2003b). The US has documented the billions of dollars of wildfire costs (above suppression costs) in terms of lost timber values, environmental restoration, socio-economic costs and property values (USDA 2005) and BC has experienced similar losses, as documented from the 2003 fire season (Filmon 2004).
Silvicultural treatments, followed with prescribed burning are needed to minimize wildfire risk within WUI timber stands (Gray 2005). New guidelines are needed to assess these stands to incorporate fuels treatments into forest management plans. Responses by the Ministry of Forest and Range (MOFR) Protection Branch are addressing the recommendations of the Filmon (2004) report, however implementation is challenging. The MOFR and municipalities have begun treating WUI fuels within the region; however, the scale of treatments needs to be seriously increased to be effective. An increased risk of catastrophic wildfires in the RMT is probable if the scale of fuels treatments is not increased (Taylor et.al. 1998).
Problems facing fuels reduction efforts in the WUI include: lack of stand data to accurately model wildfire risk under current stand conditions; lack of integration between crown lands, First Nations reserves and private land owners, making strategies difficult to implement on a landscape level; and challenges to implement fuels reduction via prescribed burning due to smoke related issues. Lack of training by forest managers and registered professional foresters (RPFs) of the available tools and methods to assess wildfire risks has been a barrier to implementing fuels treatments and to meet stand restoration/forest health objectives (FPB 2006). There has also been a lack of knowledge about adequate tools and methods for making economic decisions related to prioritizing stand treatments for fuels removal in BC.
This project has been amended from the original goal of using 760 hectares of City of Cranbrook lands for a test site to a more variable and diverse stand structure in order to gain a more accurate ability to model fuels hazard and WUI treatments. The revised research plan will assess approximately 250 hectares near Cranbrook in areas that are WUI and a 100 hectare block in the City of Kimberley WUI. The reduction in size is primarily a factor of data collection costs and the fact that fuels treatment for the City lands that were originally identified has been delayed as an additional grant application to the UBCM has been written that will result in significant financial savings from the city?s WUI fuels treatment program and will allow them to treat a larger area of WUI fuels hazard sites. This project will assess fuels risk using current fuels assessment tools such as Fire Management Analyst PlusŪ (Carlton 2005) and determine the economic costs for fuels treatments using Landscape Management System (LMS) software (Rural Tech Inst 2006). These assessments will be used to determine wildfire risk under various stand treatme ...
Hobby, Tom. 2009. Reducing Wildfire Hazards in the Wildland Urban Interface: Impacts on Timber Yields and the Best Practices for Stand Management. Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program. Forest Investment Account Report. FIA2009MR001
Topic: FLNRORD Research Program
Keywords: Forest, Investment, Account, (FIA), British, Columbia
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