Column: Intervention needed to preserve ecological values

A 2009 draft “Ecosystem Restoration Provincial Strategy Plan by Allen Neal and GC Anderson” is a good reference.

A 2009 draft “Ecosystem Restoration Provincial Strategy Plan by Allen Neal and GC Anderson” is a good reference on the topic for the provincial perspective.

As stated in the report: Ecosystem Restoration is internationally defined as the process of assisting with the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed by re-establishing its  structural characteristics, species composition, and ecological processes.

In the fire-maintained ecosystems of B.C.’s Interior, a lack of wildfire due to decades of suppression, the absence of prescribed fire, and the application of no other intervention or disturbance processes as an adequate surrogate for the role of fire have contributed to trees encroaching onto historic grasslands, as well as excessive in-growth of trees in previously open forests. Province-wide, this ecological change has affected hundreds of thousands of hectares, causing a reduction of ecosystem resiliency to climate-change pressures and a host of other related negative trends in open forest and grassland ecosystems.

These trends include: reductions in available First Nations traditional plants and ecosystem values; increased risk of catastrophic wildfire, which includes impacts to air quality; degraded native grassland integrity and associated critical wildlife habitats; reduced timber quality, and increased susceptibility to insects and disease; reduced quantity and quality of forage for wildlife and livestock; increased risk to community watershed health; and reduced recreational and aesthetic values.

To partially mitigate these adverse effects on Crown land in B.C., an Ecosystem Restoration (ER) initiative led by the Ministry of Forests and Range (MFR) was announced by the Minister in the fall of 2006.

An article by Blackwell and associates, “Cariboo‐Chilcotin Ecosystem Restoration Plan:  Grassland Benchmark” describes how the restoration is taking place in our community.

In my opinion one of the strengths of the program is the ability to plan and focus on specific areas accomplished by a detailed mapping program.

Mapping was undertaken to capture encroachment which had occurred since the early 1960s and 1970s.

This was carried out by air photo interpretation  (primarily from 1997 air photos) and comparing it with early forest inventory maps.

In 2012, I was involved with doing field checks identifying priority areas for thinning prior to a controlled burning program.

I was working in the area around Tatla Lake which had small scattered patches of encroachment unlike the large grasslands around Riske Creek which had extensive areas of invasive trees.

Not everyone agrees with the burning of the trees but until a bioenergy program is in place there are few options since the trees are not usually of lumber making quality.

These projects also provide excellent way to utilize the wildfire suppression crews during low wildfire hazard times.

For those who prefer a visual approach to the topic you could look at the 2009 power point presentation: “Ecosystem Restoration in British Columbia, An Overview” by Greg Anderson, the Provincial Ecosystem Restoration Manager.

Some excellent photos along with a concise description of the program is provided.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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