Changes for BC wildfire protection
B.C. municipalities, regional districts and First Nations will soon get more help to protect their communities and local infrastructure from wildfire threats, with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announcing changes to the funding formula for the province's Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative.
By John Tenpenny
“This change in the funding formula should encourage more municipalities, regional districts and First Nations to develop community wildfire protection plans and undertake fuel management projects to help protect their communities from wildfire,” said Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson. “Our government is making it easier for B.C. communities to take these important steps in protecting their communities from wildfire.”
The cost-sharing formula for operational fuel reduction treatments funded through the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative will change effective Jan. 1, 2013. The Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative will pay 90 per cent of the project cost, with an annual cap of $400,000 for municipalities and First Nations and an annual cap of $600,000 for regional districts. The remaining 10 per cent can be an in-kind contribution (e.g. staff time) or a cash payment from the municipality, regional district or First Nation making the application.
Previously, the initiative provided 90 per cent of the project funding up to $100,000 and 75 per cent of the remaining cost, up to a maximum of $400,000 per year.
“These changes will ease the financial burden on local governments undertaking wildfire risk reduction projects. UBCM appreciates the ongoing support of the provincial government for communities through the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative,” said Mary Sjostrom, president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
In April 2011, the ministry announced new funding of $25 million for the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative. This initiative supports the development of community wildfire protection plans (CWPPs) and fuel management projects in interface areas where urban development borders on forested lands. The Union of B.C. Municipalities administers the funding, distributing grants to communities on behalf of the B.C. government.
“The change to the funding ratio will make the program more accessible for communities. We look forward to the co-ordinated efforts of all stakeholders. Building relationships through collaborations is a cornerstone of achieving enhanced community wildfire protection and we recognize the continued accomplishments of First Nations communities,” said Brent Langlois, manager, Kamloops Office Forest Fuel Management, First Nations’ Emergency Services Society.
Fuel management is the ongoing process of mitigating the risk of wildfire damage by reducing the amount of waste wood, tree needles, brush and other flammable material that could “fuel” a grassland fire or forest fire.
Operational fuel reduction treatments may include: removing dead trees; increasing the spacing between live trees; trimming back low-hanging tree branches; and removing or burning off vegetation and wood debris that could potentially fuel a wildfire.