Basin communities get $1.7 million for wildfire risk reduction projects

The CBT and government program is designed to aid economic recovery by providing funding and employment for wildfire mitigation projects initiated by Basin communities.

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Workers at a wildfire fuel management project in Wilmer, B.C. Photo: Columbia Basin Trust

Communities in the Columbia Basin are receiving $1.7 million in funding for wildfire risk reduction projects, the Columbia Basin Trust announced on July 21.

The 16 projects in 14 communities will be undertaken by local, regional and First Nations governments, and some community groups.

The Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) says the program is designed as an economic recovery initiative that will create over 200 jobs in the communities.

Wildfire fuel treatment programs do things like removing fire fuel on the forest floor in strategic locations to slow or prevent fire spread and intensity. Photo: Columbia Basin Trust

There are a variety of projects, including creating fire fuel treatments, raising awareness, training staff, collecting data, creating plans, and employing fire prevention officers.

For example, in Nakusp, the Nakusp and Area Bike Society is doing a fuel treatment on the popular Mt. Abriel biking recreation area.

In communities like Fernie and Invermere, local governments are working on fuel treatment plans, among other things.

First Nation governments such s Kenpésq̓t (Shuswap Indian Band) and Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains) are also working on fuel treatment and volunteer capacity building programs.

There were no Revelstoke projects announced. For a complete list of the projects, see this link.

In a statement, the CBT described the intent of the project:

The funding comes from the Columbia Basin Economic Recovery Initiative, which is part of the Province of BC’s Crown Land Wildfire Risk Reduction program. The initiative is a partnership between the Province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; its BC Wildfire Service; and Columbia Basin Trust, which is administering it.

“Our government’s financial support for wildfire risk reduction projects in the Columbia Basin will help mitigate future wildfire threats,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We appreciate Columbia Basin Trust’s assistance in distributing these grants and helping communities protect themselves against wildfires.”

Projects supported through this program will teach people how to prevent wildfires and lessen their effects, managing vegetation/fuel load in fire-prone areas, support the development of community emergency plans using FireSmart principles, and create jobs and provide training and skills development related to wildfire risk reduction. Funding recipients include local governments, First Nations, non-profits, fire departments and post-secondary institutions.

“First and foremost, this program focuses on improving the safety and security of Basin communities, while also creating employment and training opportunities for residents,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “We are pleased to partner with the Province of BC and look forward to seeing these projects improve community wildfire resiliency during the summer and in the coming months.”