Residents prepare to evacuate their home as fires burn and smoke billows in the distance during the 1998 wildfire in Salmon Arm. The city and the Neskonlith Band are in the process of applying for provincial funding to help mitigate wildfire risk in the area. (File photo)

Salmon Arm and Neskonlith partner for wildfire protection funding

Joint applications first step in community-to-community approach to reduce fire risk

The Neskonlith Band and the City of Salmon Arm are partnering on provincial funding applications to help diminish the risk of wildfires.

On Monday, Oct. 22, Salmon Arm council gave unanimous support to a lengthy resolution that marks the first steps in “a community-to-community approach to addressing wildfire risks in the area.”

These steps include having the Neskonlith proceed with separate applications for the band and for the city for funding through the Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) program, followed by a joint application for funding through the Forest Enhancement Society’s (FES) Wildfire Risk Reduction program.

The resolution includes an agreement to have Silvatech Consulting prepare, pro-bono, the applications for CRI funding on behalf of the city and the Neskonlith, and to put $15,000 towards the undertaking of a wildfire mitigation initiative, to cover any necessary expenses related to the CRI and/or FES applications, and any subsequent steps that may be required from either of the programs.

Related: Salmon Arm looking to be fire smart

Coun. Tim Lavery, who has been working with the Neskonlith and Silvatech to build this government-to-government partnership, explained the CRI application would see up to $100,000 made available to Salmon Arm. He explained up to 50 per cent of that funding would be committed to the development of a community wildfire protection plan, with remaining funds going towards training, education of citizens and businesses and the implementation of some FireSmart activities. The Neskonlith would use its CRI funding to update its Community Wildfire Protection Plan, for promotion of FireSmart activities on reserve and for the implementation of fuel management on First Nations lands.

FES funding, which would go towards projects on adjacent Crown lands, is 100 per cent with no maximum funding, but is expected to be reasonable and defendable. The Neskonlith are proposing funds received through a successful joint application be used to fund a 15- to 18-person crew over three years that would work to reduce community wildfire threats in as short a time period as possible.

Silvatech’s Terry Smith noted the city and the Neskonlith would be competing with other B.C. communities for this funding, but suggested the FES funding could be substantial.

“The $100,000 (CRI funding) is just for in the city, and that’s $100,000 per year,” said Smith. “The type of funding you could expect from something like the Forest Enhancement Society would be much, much larger – it could be 10-fold, per year. And we’re proposing a three-year package.”

Related: Searing memories of the Shuswap’s 1998 Silver Creek wildfire

Asked about leveraging this partnership between Salmon Arm and the Neskonlith into a community forest, Neskonlith Coun. Louis Thomas said the band approached the city a few years ago about partnering in a community forest but was turned down.

While he didn’t dismiss the idea, Thomas’ focus right now is on wildfire mitigation and protection.

“I think we should be really thinking of making that big effort for the safety of our community and our people; that should come first and foremost,” said Thomas.

In addition to supporting the applications, council spoke favourably of the partnership and what it represents.

“For me, there’s two things that are most important here: it’s the government-to-government… and the trust that’s built into this motion,” said Coun. Ken Jamieson. “I really appreciate that, I really do, because in my time sitting at this table, I don’t remember the City of Salmon Arm handing over a file to another government and saying, you know what? We trust you to look after this… because that’s what we’re doing and I really appreciate that because I think that shows trust on both of our parts, both of our communities, recognizing that we’re one community and, when it comes to fires, we have to help each other out here.”


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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