Phase 1 of the fuel-mitigation project from Point Road to the Buffalo Ranch on the off-shore of Green Lake South Road started on Jan. 27 and has been moving along quickly.
Rob Martin, who is the land and resource planning specialist for the 100 Mile House Natural Resource District of the Ministry of Forests, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) says they had the option of contracting out the logging and then selling any of the dead and green wood in a decked wood sale at a later date.
Local contractors Keith Monsos Contracting Ltd. and Boreal West Forestry Ltd. (Patrick Ashton) got the contracts for Phase 1.
Martin says Monsos is doing the logging in the middle portion fuel-mitigation area, and Ashton is doing piling in the Point Road and the Buffalo Ranch on the ends of Phase 1, where the trees are smaller and there’s not much product to be pulled out.
Martin says the general prescription is to remove any standing dead and downed trees — anything that contributes to the surface fuel hazard.
“We are also looking to increase the spacing between the larger trees by removing the smaller trees, thereby reducing the ladder fuels.”
Spacing is variable because it depends on the condition of the original stand of trees including the number of deciduous trees, which they intend to mostly leave, and the forest health.
Unhealthy deciduous trees will be cut down to encourage new growth.
Dead trees that are already lying on the ground will be left as “coarse, woody debris” to decompose, which, in time, will nurture future growth.
In Phase 1, Martin says it’s the ministry’s intention to leave some piles for firewood where it is uneconomical to skid small pockets of deadwood to the roads.
These firewood piles will be available but people will need to have forestry firewood permits to take the wood. People can get permits online or at the Forestry Office in 100 Mile House.
“We will tag the piles [that people have] to stay away from.”
The fuel-mitigation prescription in Phase 1 (Point Road to Buffalo Ranch) is to treat the forest for 100 metres beyond private property lines. However, Martin says some areas will go beyond the 100 metres depending on the individual site conditions.
On Crown land, however, the prescription is to go right down to Green Lake South Road, so people can see any animals preparing to cross the road, as requested by local residents.
“We haven’t finished taking all of the trees out of the ditches. So that’s still some outstanding work there.”
Burning of piles that must be burned have to be at least 50 metres from a residence, and must follow the new Open Burning Smoke Control Regulations.
Burning could start anytime now pending venting days availability.
Whether it all gets done in 2020 depends on the number of venting days that are available.
“We’re obviously not going to be burning when there’s a fire hazard.”
Some of the smaller trees and other debris (ladder fuels) have been, and are being, pushed up into large piles.
Martin notes the ministry had been looking for and meeting with potential clients — whether it’s BC Timber Sales or any of the pulp, pellet or fibre companies to take the larger fibre.
He says the ministry hoped most of that fibre would be purchased by fibre companies.
“We’re excited that there is an increased interest from both fibre and pellet companies… There would be less burning and more fibre utilization.”
Just recently, the contract (Forestry Licence to Cut) to utilize the fibre was awarded to Keith Monsos Contracting Ltd., Martin says, adding the contractor will be arranging the fibre removal with whichever fibre producer he chooses.
Removing the fibre from these piles requires a series of trails and roads to get machinery in and fibre out, as well as providing access to the wildfire crews.
The roads/trails would be behind or through the fuel-mitigation area, Martin says, adding “it’s likely there will be a few trucks taking [either chips or whole logs] out along Green Lake South Road because there is only one way out at this point.”
There won’t be road/trails everywhere, he notes, but only where machinery has to get in. The trails and the main road will be where Monsos is working (the middle of the project), and there won’t be any trails/roads where Ashton is working, he adds.
“The long-term reasons for those roads/trails is to have access for the wildfire crews … to initiate a response to a wildfire.”
Martin notes these roads will not be decommissioned, but access will be restricted, and they are still working on that issue.
Noting the ministry understands there is a concern about opening up the forest behind people’s property lines, Martin says having more open area will make it more visible for neighbours to watch out for each other’s property.
While some residents have voiced concern about the view-scape after the project is completed, Martin says he believes the majority of people will be pleased with the outcome.
After break-up, he says the ministry is going to be sending some hand crews in with brush saws to cut down the sticks that are poking up, do some pruning, cleanup and putting the debris into small piles and burning them.
“We’re hoping to get that started in late April, weather permitting.”
Martin says the ministry will be doing a bit of fill planting with fir or deciduous trees, but the prescription area will definitely be more open.
There is going to be new growth and shrubs popping up, he adds.
Martin notes the ministry is still learning on the forestry side how best to do fuel mitigation in a primarily Douglas-fir/aspen stand.
“We’re trying to consider people’s security issues; we’re trying to figure out what the different forest products we can get out of the area while we’re doing that, and we’re having to consider the impact on local employment as well.”
Martin says they are trying to get as much done by the May long weekend as the conditions permit.
He adds Monsos is done with the big machinery in Phase 1 because of the weight restrictions on the roads.
They can still have smaller machinery working in Phase 1, Martin explains, but they will have to be out by the end of March.
Originally, Norbord was going to be the contractor in Phase 2 (from the Buffalo Ranch to the end of Green Lake South Road), but when its indefinite curtailment was announced, Martin says the ministry is still looking for a contractor to take that over the cutting permit.
The only thing that has happened in Phase 2 is the egress route and that’s only partially finished right now, Martin explains.
“Once the weather is better and it’s drier, we’re going to be able to finish off the egress route.”