RMOW tree thinning project underway 

Blackcomb Benchlands work to cover more than 15 hectares

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The forests targeted are primarily the dense, second-growth forests, which occur throughout much of the valley bottom.

Funding for tree thinning is provided by the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Province of B.C. as part of their efforts to protect life and property throughout the province.

The reasons for tree thinning are:

• to limit the ability of the forests to sustain a crown fire (A crown fire is a fire that moves unimpeded and with great speed along the tops of the trees. Thinning opens the forest canopy by removing smaller trees, so the forest is less likely to support a crown fire.)

• to help maintain access for fire protection crews

• to reduce surface and ladder fuels (i.e. branches and small trees that could otherwise allow a fire to move along the forest floor or act as a ladder up to the forest canopy).

Some large pieces of wood (over 30 centimetres) are left on-site to help provide habitat for a variety of animals. Thinning this way helps accelerate the forest back to old-growth conditions and increases light to the forest floor. By thinning forests, fire risks are reduced and wildlife habitat and biodiversity opportunities are increased.

The Benchlands thinning project includes the dense forest above developed areas in the Blackcomb Benchlands. This area includes a water reservoir, access roads to Blackcomb Mountain, and the Roam in the Loam bike and horse trail, and is bound on the south by the ski run adjacent to the Coast Blackcomb Suites and on the north by Horstman Creek.

Thinning will occur between the property boundaries on the downhill side, and extend uphill approximately 200 metres.

Much of the area was clearcut in the 1970s and other parts were cut in the late 1930s.

Through thinning, the average spacing between trees will be four to six metres, and virtually no branches or other fire fuels will be left on the forest floor. Openings in the canopy will allow light to reach the forest floor, which will encourage the growth of understorey vegetation. Over the next few years, the moss, herb and shrub layer will respond to this additional light.

Tree thinning operations will be limited to daytime hours, Monday through Friday. Trails and roads may be temporarily closed during these hours and detours will be provided.

Tree thinning in Whistler began with a small trial in Lost Lake Park in 2004. It expanded in subsequent years to include the main trail network through the park. In 2009, thinning occurred for the first time right at the interface between developed and forested areas in Kadenwood. Thinning of approximately five hectares on either side of Kadenwood Road was completed in May 2010. The Kadenwood thinning project removed approximately 140 large bins (750 tonnes) of wood from the site. The wood was trucked to the Whistler composting facility and contributed almost six weeks of wood supply for the composting process.

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