For Steven Kozuki, the executive director of the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC), finding that perfect medium between economic support and natural resource conservation is key when looking into the future of British Columbia’s forest industry.
“For all of the work we do, we want it to be both win-win for the economical side and the environmental side,” said Kozuki. “We strive for multiple benefits for every community project we are fortunate enough to fund.”
Kozuki was in Williams Lake on Aug. 24 for the Cariboo Regional District’s (CRD) regular board meeting to speak on behalf of the FESBC to provide information on some of the FESBC funded initiatives in the region, including those that are focused on wildfire risk reduction.
“We find ourselves in an interesting time,” said Kozuki. “With the wildfires in the Cariboo region, and throughout B.C., we believe it’s incredibly important to share the good work being done by the proponents who have received FESBC funding to mitigate and prevent future wildfire incidents. The projects we fund will reduce wildfire risk, rehabilitate damaged forests, improve forest carbon management to mitigate climate change, and enhance wildlife habitat.”
One such fuel reduction project co-funded by FESBC and the Union of BC Municipalities’ Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative is underway in the Williams Lake Community Forest where helicopter logging, primarily for bark beetle, is being done to reduce fuel loading.
Furthermore, the work to utilize ladder fuels, or smaller trees that would not normally be harvested, is underway and will have a significant impact on B.C. forests.
Other projects also underway in the region are in 100 Mile House, Quesnel, Tatla Lake, Alkali Lake, Borland Valley, Hanceville, Anaham, Meadow Lake, Lac La Hache, Sugar Cane, Canim Lake, Alexandria, Clinton, Barkerville, and Nazko, with nearly 50 ongoing or complete projects in the Cariboo region alone.
One of the other local projects Kozuki is particularly proud of is the collaboration between two Tsilhqot’in First Nation communities, who are working together to rehabilitate forests and protect themselves from future wildfires.
“We want to manage the fuels, harvest what we can, but we also want to get the forest back up and growing,” said Percy Guichon, former Chief of Tsi Del Del (Alexis Creek). “We are going into those areas where there are low volume stands and dead trees.”
Tsi Del Del has had its own forestry company for more than 25 years.
Two years ago Tsi Del Del approached Tl’etinqox (Anaham) First Nation asking if they wanted to join forces to tackle forestry issues together.
Tl’etinqox agreed and together they formed Cariboo Chilcotin Rehabilitation (CCR) and applied for funding from Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC).
The FESBC was formed in 2016 with money the provincial government had left over from its firefighting budget because it had rained so much in 2015.
“In April, the province announced $99 million was being awarded by FESBC for forest enhancement and restoration projects in the Cariboo region. Following that announcement, we invited FESBC to attend one of our board meetings so that our directors could learn more about the work planned in our region,” explained CRD Chair Margo Wagner.
Ultimately, Kozuki believes the public has been extremely receptive of the work they are doing in communities throughout the province, and shared the work regarding wildfire mitigation, climate change reduction and wildlife habitat support at the CRD Board meeting.
“We have amazing feedback from communities,” said Kozuki.
“If you were to ask people if they support mitigating climate change, if they support enhancing habitats for wildlife, wildfire recovery, wildfire risk reduction and prevention. I think the overwhelming response would be yes.”