The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development announced plans Thursday to plant 22 million trees in areas burned during the 2017 wildfires, such as the Hanceville fire west of Williams Lake. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

22 million trees slated for Cariboo Chilcotin areas burned in 2017 wildfires

The planting will focus on the Plateau, Elephant Hill and Hanceville fire areas

In an effort to re-establish wildlife habitat 22 million trees will be planted in areas burned during the 2017 wildfires in the Cariboo region.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development announced the plan Thursday, noting the planting will also increase the future timber supply and capture greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Contractors will concentrate in the three largest wildfire areas, with planting expected to be completed by the end of June 2019.

Eleven million trees will be planted in the Plateau Complex Fire area where 545,000 hectares burned, 10 million in the Elephant Hill area were 192,000 hectares burned, and 25 million trees in the Hanceville area where 241,000 hectares were burned.

Pine, fir and spruce are the main tree species being planted, while deciduous trees, mainly aspen, will also be planted to improve wildlife habitat and enhance biodiversity.

Tree planting will also help stabilize soils and watersheds in the Cariboo region, eventually reducing runoff that could lead to flooding.

The 2017 wildfire season caused record-setting damage, burning about 796,000 hectares of land in the Cariboo region and over 1.2 million hectares provincewide.

Read more: Wildfire risk reduction grants benefit Cariboo region

Slightly over half of the trees in affected areas in the Cariboo were lost to fire, representing about 22 million cubic metres of green timber and 12 million cubic metres of timber already killed by mountain pine beetles.

The first year of this post-wildfire replanting program will focus on areas within fire sites where the government managed plantations of immature trees.

These trees were too young to produce seed cones and regenerate naturally.

Replanting efforts in 2020 and 2021 will focus on areas containing large numbers of Douglas fir trees, old growth management areas and important wildlife habitat areas. The reforestation of areas affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the 2010 wildfires will continue.

Replanting areas affected by the 2017 wildfires is expected to take about a decade to complete, due to the large amount of land affected and a limited capacity to grow and plant additional tree seedlings. Some areas burned by the wildfires will not require replanting. For example, mature pine forests will be monitored but are expected to self-regenerate over time.

Read more: Kids plant more than 1,000 trees to replace those burned in 2017 wildfires



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