Following are some initial thoughts on the January fire workshop. We have just received the facilitator's workshop report which goes into more detail about the two days. You can download it in .pdf format here.
The workshop was attended by reps from the Ministry of Forests (including 3 folks from the Protection Branch (fire fighters)), Ministry of Environment, City of Kimberley, Wildsight, Kimberley Nordic Club, Tembec, and the KNPS. (Pam Chenery, Chris Ferguson, Kathi Chorneyko and Kent Goodwin). Teck/Cominco was notably absent.
Statements from all the groups in the early part of the workshop, regarding values and objectives generally agreed that fire protection was an important issue but we needed to find solutions that respected other values as much as possible.
Efforts to generate scenarios for fuel treatment and then analyze them through a structured process bogged down due to lack of time and lack of adequate advance work by the facilitators and Bob Gray. By the end of the second morning we were basically left with a scenario based on the Tembec logging plan and some further hand work in the Nature Park and Forest Crowne. The hand work in this plan was expected to cost more than $3 million dollars and the annual long term maintenance costs were expected to be about $1 million. Needless to say, the money to do this is not available.
We were disappointed to hear that the funding that Bob Gray said would be available if the community reached a consensus plan was not a specific commitment to Kimberley but rather some part of the $5 million pot that the Province gave to the UBCM some time ago for the whole province. The idea that forest fire fighters could help do the hand work while not fighting fires was confirmed but expectations were lowered by a Ministry rep who pointed out that in a busy fire year they might not be able to help very much.
As expected the workshop was not designed to deal with many of our site specific issues such as small boundary changes, landings, skid trails, etc. These items will still have to be negotiated with Tembec.
The key issue of how many trees would be left in the areas that are logged was not resolved because the fuel models that the process used did not consider the specifics of forest type and canopy closure. However a technical committee has been formed, composed of Bob Gray, Brian Dureski from Tembec, Peter Holmes from the Ministry of Environment and Greg Utzig a scientist working for Wildsight (which the KNPS will now hire). This group will take the Tembec logging plan and ecological maps of the Park and determine what the options are for leaving more trees from an ecological, fire safety and economic perspective. Our hope is that from the first two perspectives more leave trees than the current 200 stems/hectare can be retained in many areas. We will then be faced with the economic argument. The City will be pursuing, with the Province, the idea of stumpage reductions in parts of the Park which were formerly Cominco land and are not a part of the Provincial Forest.
The Mayor made a statement at the end of the second day saying that he needed some time to consult with Council and others before deciding on the next step in the process. It is likely that the workshop participants will be reconvened at some point in the future perhaps 2-3 months from now, when the technical committee has finished its analysis.