May 10, 2004

BC to implement forest health plan for Mount Robson park

The British Columbia government is preparing to take the first step in implementing a multi-year forest health management plan for British Columbia's Mount Robson Provincial Park. "This forest health plan will...slow the further spread of mountain pine beetle, reduce the potential for wildfire, and will improve biodiversity and wildlife habitat," said Water, Land and Air Protection Minister Bill Barisoff.

The first action under the plan is a prescribed burn, to be carried out this month in a section of the park. The park's stands of older lodgepole pines have attracted a mountain pine beetle infestation, which is currently spreading eastward through the park.

The prescribed burn will slow the further spread of the beetle in the park, and will reduce the wildfire risk posed by these beetle-infested trees. It will take place near Moose Lake, covering up to 2,900 hectares within the park's boundaries, and will be attended by BC Parks staff, along with Ministry of Forests Fire Protection staff and Parks Canada crews.

The burn is in keeping with recommendations submitted to the provincial government earlier this year by former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon, who was commissioned last October to conduct a comprehensive review of BC's response to the devastating wildfires of 2003. His report, Firestorm 2003, concluded that a successful record of fire suppression has led to a fuel buildup in BC's forests, which will result in more large, severe widlfires unless action is taken.

Among his recommendations were: an assessment of fire-prone ecosystems within or near a wildland/urban interface, for risk reduction; and training of more professionals capable of carrying out a forest fuel reduction program while meeting complex ecological, economic and social constraints. (The report may be viewed online at www.2003firestorm.gov.bc.ca)

On April 17, Premier Gordon Campbell announced government's commitment to act on all 42 of the recommendations of the Filmon report, including a multi-agency approach to long-term planning for fuel management and prescribed burning to reduce fire risk. In addition to prescribed burning, the plan calls for selective tree removal to reduce the fire threat, another Filmon recommendation. Tree removal is planned for Lucerne, Swift Current and the area around park headquarters for this year and will likely start in the fall.

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