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Wildfire prevention top of list for CCF in 2018

CCF open house lays out plans for the coming year
old growth Foresters have plenty of fuel thinning planned for the CCF in 2018. file photo

The Whistler Public Library hosted an open house for the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) on Friday Oct. 27.

Foresters were onhand to explain what's in store for the community forest, which is managed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Lil'wat and Squamish Nations.

Workers will get started with fire thinning along the Callaghan Forest Service Road soon, explained Jeff Fisher, a forester with Squamish First Nation.

"We thin it out so the crowns don't touch anymore, but we keep enough trees to put shade on the forest floor, to try to reduce the underbrush, so there's no fuel on the floor," he explained.

The goal is to make a "shaded fuel break" that will serve as a guard against wildfire.

"It gives you a place to mount a defense. It's to stop smaller fires from becoming big fires," he said.

Deciduous and large trees are not harvested.

Sometimes the branches of large trees are chopped off, however, to prevent fires from jumping tree to tree.

The aim is to leave between 230 and 350 trees per hectare, explained Fisher. Another plan is to get started on a fuel break on the northeast side of the Cheakamus River.

"It will be a couple-year project," said Fisher. It will have the support of the provincial government, which has pledged to invest in fuel breaks around the province to prevent small fires from growing.

There are also plans to log a series of small 0.5- to two-ha. openings in the Cheak-9 area (located off the Basalt Valley Spur Road) and five or more openings ranging from three to six ha. of moderate retention in Tusk-01 (located west of Jane Lakes) in the area.

This past year saw some logging and thinning of dead trees in the Wedge area.

Every year has a period when logging isn't permitted.

And while it's usually a six-week time frame for the Whistler-Pemberton area, this year's was considerably longer.

"Because our forest surrounds a multibillion-dollar resort community, you have to be a little more conservative," said Fisher.

"We log in the dry stuff in winter."

Relations among the three parties are strong.

"Like all tri-partite agreements, we have our disagreements, and we have different things we put weight on," said Fisher.

"But we have so far functioned fairly well for the 10 years that there's been a community forest and a board in existence."

While a similarly sized area (the forest is more than 13,355 ha.) could handle between 40,000 to 50,0000 cubic metres a year of logging, the CCF does about half that and keeps cut blocks to a minimum.

"Our management strategies are very different than those you'd find in other communities that are more industrial forestry orientated," said Fisher.

"We are trying to practice forestry and harvest timber in an environment that's dominated by tourism, recreation — those kind of things," he explained.