The new Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) for the Okanagan timber supply area will see a 20 per cent more tree harvest reduction.
Deputy chief forester Shane Berg made the AAC 20 per cent reduction decision after considering the timber producing capacity of the forest, Indigenous interests and requirements for biodiversity, wildlife habitat, recreation resources and cultural values, according to Nigel McInnis, public affairs officer for the ministry of forests.
Indigenous perspectives on the AAC were voiced by representatives of the Sylix nation.
The impact of logging on the Okanagan is greater than simply economic, said Jesse Zeman, with the BC Wildlife Foundation.
The timber harvest is a tool used to mitigate forest fire risk by thinning the canopy and removing dead stands.
This process is called fuel reduction and mitigates wildfire severity by eliminating easily burned materials.
The absence of logging means that implementing another fire-control strategy, controlled burns, is necessary to secure the health of Okanagan’s forests, said Zeman.
Zeman is an advocate for more controlled burns. “The province needs to come up with an objective for how many hectares they want to burn in each year,” he said.
He said to ensure appropriate management efforts are being made, the government should publish its yearly quota for controlled burns.
“Currently there are no specific goals or quotas for controlled burns within the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District,” added McInnis.
“The use of controlled burns and/or cultural burning within the district is an area of discussion between the ministry, First Nations and local communities and feasibility would be determined at the site level by the professionals developing the plans.”
Zeman said the government needs to be accountable for the management of the forests, including the implementation of controlled burns.
When asked about the use of controlled burns, McInnes said, “Decisions regarding how forest management operations are undertaken to mitigate the risk of wildfire are made at the operational level by forest professionals in partnership with First Nations and input from local communities and other stakeholders.”
Zeman believes the burns will not only aid by burning off kindling before it accumulates, fueling extreme raging wildfires, but also improves plant biodiversity.
He further stated fires are a natural part of the Okanagan’s ecologic process and having more frequent, less intense burns, is important to combat devastating blazes and restore biodiversity.
“We need to get back to the days of controlled burns,” said Zeman.