Wildfire impacts on community forests will be the focus of a provincial workshop taking place in Williams Lake next month.
Alex Fraser Research Forest manager Stephanie Ewen said they will be hosting the seminar with the British Columbia Community Forest Association from March 11 to 13 and already many people are expressing an interest in attending.
“I’m excited about the number of people who want to attend, despite how overwhelmed I think people are with dealing with these issues, such as wildfires,” Ewen said. “I’m also excited about the fact they are willing to come together and learn collectively on how to manage for wildfire, how to recover from wildfire and new ways of thinking about our forests going forward.”
Having Williams Lake be the centre of that type of training is a good thing for the community because it reflects well on some of the positive things that are going on within the local forest industry — some of the innovations and thoughtfulness that’s happening in the area with respect to those challenges, Ewen said.
Registration opened on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and it is estimated 100 people will attend.
“We are more concerned about our maximum capacity than getting enough people to show up,” she added.
There will be a welcoming reception during the evening of Monday, March 11 at the Tourism Discovery Centre and the two-day workshop will be held at the Cariboo Memorial Complex’s Gibraltar Room.
The second day will focus on changing the ways of thinking about forest management on the land base and potentially creating areas for future innovation and research, Ewen said.
Ken Day, former manager of the Alex Fraser Research Forest, said they have been collaborating with the BC Community Forest Association for many years.
“It’s been primarily on forest management and governance of community forests — the legal details and how boards and managers relate to each other to make that productive.”
The work has been funded for a decade by a donation from an anonymous donor, and there was enough money left over that was not spent in 2018 to sponsor the upcoming workshop.
“That same donor has been supporting UBC forestry summer student positions at community forests,” Day noted.
A workshop on wildfires seemed a “sensible” way to spend the money, given the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons, which severely impacted several community forests in different regions across the province.
“Quite a few community forests had substantial damage from fires,” Day said. “We are leaning on our experience in 2017 to bring forward the agenda and the speakers and we are drawing on examples from the 50 community forests around the province.”
Day said the workshop will also examine ways to improve collaboration between community forests and the B.C. Wildfire Service in fire operations and explore ways community forests can be productively engaged during wildfire operations.
Before Christmas the research forest received funding from the University of British Columbia to support the planning phase of a Cariboo Fire and Ecology Centre in Williams Lake.
Peak Solutions was hired as the consultant to do the planning project.
“Peak Solutions has been contacting potential partners, people that would have interest in working with us on building that centre and I’m expecting that by the end of February I might have a bit of summary on that from them,” Ewen said. “So far their initial response to me is that there is a ton of interest in seeing more formal forestry research in an applied sense, especially focusing on large scale disturbance after all these changes that we’ve had.”