School students have been touring the Flat Rock block learning about forests.

School students have been touring the Flat Rock block learning about forests.

Williams Lake Community Forest focuses on fir-beetle, wildfire mitigation and education

Efforts to harvest Douglas-fir beetle impacted timber continues in the Williams Lake Community Forest’s Flat Rock Block

The Williams Lake Community Forest continues its efforts to remove Douglas-fir beetle impacted timber on its Flat Rock Block.

“We’ve taken out 200 truckloads over the winter,” said Hugh Flinton who along with Kent Watson of C&P Management Group took over the management role of the community forest on Dec. 31, 2017.

They replaced Ken Day who recently retired from the UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest and had managed the community forest.

Douglas-fir bark beetle wood has been taken out of the Flat Rock block near Esler entirely this winter.

The area escaped last summer’s wildfires, although in the community forest’s Big Lake block there were three small fires, which were put out very quickly with the help of the Big Lake Volunteer Fire Dept.

“They were unbelievable neighbours,” Flinton said. “We were lucky to have them on those fires as quickly as they were.”

The community forest is a joint partnership between the City of Williams Lake and the Williams Lake Indian Band.

Logs from the community forest are going to West Fraser Mills and some to Tolko Industries Ltd. in Williams Lake.

Last summer, under the direction of Day, work began in the community forest to develop a 300-metre wide fire break in the Flat Rock block.

The plan is to eventually create an 11-kilometre pathway to protect the urban interface.

Read More: Foresty project aims to protect Williams Lake from wildfire threats

Work continues on the pathway, with continued funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. Flinton said, noting they’ve applied for more funding and hope to hear by the end of April that they were successful.

“We’ve done 60 hectares of fuel treatment, and it’s being done by local contractors. We’ve done some mechanically with harvest machines and some of the steeper non-accessible land is done by hand crews.”

There has been some heli-logging on the steep slope into the Williams Lake Creek area to remove dead and dying Douglas-fir beetle timber as well, he said.

Forest fuels taken out by machine are being ground and sent to Atlantic Power’s biomass energy plant, saw logs are going to local mills, and there have been some slash piles burned, although Flinton said they are trying to create as little slash material as possible.

He anticipates they will be removing Douglas-fir beetle wood for several years.

“We are starting to get on top of it, but there is still a lot we need to do. We need some help from Mother Nature. We’ve assessed and dealt with more than 90 per cent of the known sites out there and continue to work on that.”

Flinton said school students toured the Flat Rock Block last November doing animal tracking, forest measurements and fuel management and will return in April or May.

“We also did a tour for School District 27 teachers on a professional development day to demonstrate some of the things we can do and get some more school tours lined up,” Flinton said.

In recent years the community forest has started to make some money. The financial statements are in the review stage and will be available for the public to view possibly by the end of April.

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As much as 200 truck loads of Douglas-fir beetle impacted wood has been logged from the Williams Lake Community Forest’s Flat Rock block.

As much as 200 truck loads of Douglas-fir beetle impacted wood has been logged from the Williams Lake Community Forest’s Flat Rock block.

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