Worst Wildfire Season BC Has Ever Seen

by ldewar on October 6, 2017 - 10:19pm

Winding down after the worst wildfire season on record for British Columbia, the provincial state of emergency and evacuation orders have been rescinded. In the CBC News article, “Fires compound losses of harvestable timber in BC's Interior,” it is stated that in just three months, nearly 50,000 people were displaced from their homes and costed the province more than $510 million to fight (Kelly, 2017). The lack of precipitation and fuel buildup resulted in the merger of nineteen forest fires to form the single largest blaze in BC history. In addition to this fire, a total of 1.2 million hectares of harvestable timber were destroyed, and left the forest industry to either reduce and/or close their operations (Vancouver Sun, 2017). Major forestry companies in Williams Lake and Quesnel have already reported a shortage of raw material, which had been predicted by lumber markets (Kelly, 2017). Moreover, the article critiques that the current forestry management policies because are outdated and ignore the increasingly noticeable effects of climate changes (Kelly, 2017). The policy outlines that every ten years each timber supply area is assigned a harvestable timber allowance that dictates their annual allowable cut (AAC). It is requested by forestry companies that this policy be reviewed and adapted to a system similar to Alberta’s policy, that reassess the ACC after a certain percentage of forests have been lost to fires or diseases (Kelly, 2017). Furthermore, around 75 percent of forests burned occurred in the Cariboo region, leaving these specific companies responsible for recovery tactics.
Altering the policies will offer relief to companies who are economically responsible for the damage and replanting of trees. Conversely, if these policies are reviewed to allow companies to extend their AAC, would this be beneficial for British Columbia in the long-run? Increasing the amount of trees that are allowed to be cut will release more stored carbon into the atmosphere, only adding to the effects of climate change (Vancouver Sun, 2017). With a substantial increase in forest fires in BC in the last decade, is it a sustainable choice for companies to increase their rate of extraction compared to the rate of forest regeneration? Alternatively, this is problematic for BC residents because one out of every seventeen people are reliant on this industry for employment, as it generates $8.6 billion in wages annually (Vancouver Sun, 2017). Forestry accounts for 35 percent of provincial exports and $12.9 billion in provincial GDP (Saltman, 2017). Decreasing employment opportunities in forestry would have adverse effects on the social and economic sectors of BC. In reference to Staples Theory, has the Interior of British Columbia taken a pessimistic view on the forestry sector, and become to reliant on a single resource? This presents a conflict of value for stakeholders who need to determine an equilibrium between environmental sustainability and socioeconomic factors for a globally demanded product.
Not addressed in the article is the benefits from forest fire rejuvenation and the positive effects at reducing the high growth rate of pine beetles. The article also fails to mention other possible strategies at combating the increasing amount of fires, such as planting a greater diversity of tree species or prescribed burns. It was not until recently that provincial legislation changed their fighting tactics from suppression, to only those are endangering communities (Saltman, 2017). Due to the previous methods, there has been fuel build up in forests that will escalate a normal blaze into a fire similar to that of Interior BC. Prescribed burns may lessen the devastation caused from a single catastrophe.
To conclude, the media attention on fires has declined since the end of the forest fire season. Therefore, will the discussion on ameliorating the environmental and resource practices be sidelined until we are again struck<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp; </span>with fires next summer?</span></p>