Fuel modification continues in the Selous Creek area through the Selous Creek Wildfire Mitigation Project, creating an eyebrow of protection for Nelson through a three meter wide treeless zone.
A collaboration between the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) and Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. Ltd., the Selous Creek Fuel Management Project resumes this month and is designed to reduce wildfire risk next to Nelson and the threat to its secondary source of water, the Selous Creek water intake.
By reducing the risk of wildfire, the project will retain large, healthy, fire-resistant trees, but eliminate surface fuels and understory trees. This should improve “infrastructure protection for potential future suppression efforts.”
Started in 2017, the project includes the following completed treatment phases:
– 65 hectares (ha.) of mechanical harvesting by Kalesnikoff Lumber Company;
– 20 ha of mechanical modification of the fuel (piling of debris);
– 5.5 ha of undergrowth hand treatment along The Vein cycle path and surrounding area; and,
– two ha of manual treatment of the undergrowth along the Rail Trail.
As the final stages of the project approach, the following treatments will begin this fall:
– 5.5 ha of manual treatment of the undergrowth along the Rail Trail;
– 40 ha of modified fuel attached to the machine to create debris-free protection around the outer perimeter of the harvested area and around the reserve plots; and,
– Prescribed burning — led by the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) — this fall and again next spring or fall.
During operations, the Rail Trail will have restricted use on weekdays.
On the ground
Normally the retention Visual Quality Objective (VQO) prohibits any large scale harvesting in a place like the Selous Community Catchment which is part of the Nelson Catchment along with Anderson and Five Mile Creek.
Drinking water is supplied to city residents from three community watersheds, including Selous, Five Mile and Anderson creeks. Each of the watersheds is physically separate, but also shares similar challenges and risks.
The project — supported by funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC — covers an area of approximately 65 hectares directly upstream of the Rail Trail on provincial Crown land. Previously, similar projects had been completed in West Arm Provincial Park and Harrop Procter Community Forest.
Source Protection Plan
In 2021, the city developed the Five Mile Creek, Anderson Creek and Selous Creek Source Protection Plan, an 80-page document detailing how far the city and its stakeholder partners — primarily BC Parks — were willing to go to protect city watersheds.
The plan took inspiration from the most pessimistic scenarios to develop a proactive strategy for safeguarding the source of drinking water for Nelsonites.
Research on the plan – with stakeholder partners BC Parks, several local recreation groups and forestry companies – began in 2019 and ended in 2020 and examined the nature of activities taking place in the watershed , as well as the quality of the watershed.
One of the key elements of the plan was the risk of wildfire and how to mitigate it in the face of climate change and the ever-increasing threat of wildfire.
The plan was seen as a necessity due to climate change, with forest fires, floods and drought being the main risks affecting the watershed.
In the region and the watershed, it has been predicted that there will be higher temperatures in summer and winter, a net increase in precipitation (decrease in summer precipitation, increase in winter precipitation) and a decrease in snow accumulations in the mountains with rain instead of snow.
The second time is the charm
Six years ago, Kalesnikoff proposed to salvage dead wood in the Selous Creek area west of Nelson to suppress an infestation of Douglas-fir beetles.
The wood had to be removed in order to save the city’s secondary drinking water source.
The company has completed work on four cut blocks, with the aim of salvaging dead wood and suppressing the beetle population by harvesting currently infested wood.
The operational landscape fuel treatment was expected to reduce wildfire risk at a larger linear level to protect the city by tying together previously treated smaller areas and creating a new large treatment area .
However, watersheds can be severely damaged by logging if not done selectively, increasing sedimentation which in turn affects water quality and requiring expensive water treatment infrastructure. that impact local residents and governments.
But a request will be made to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources
Beetles, beetles everywhere
The issue in the watershed was first noticed in the Selous Creek area in the summer of 2016 by Kalesnikoff staff members, with FLNRO consulted and a suppression strategy developed by KLC.
Ministry overview flights in 2016 indicated that forests destroyed by the beetles were in new areas where stands had not previously been infested, with 2017 flights indicating an approximately three-fold increase in populations compared to previous ones. 2016 levels.
At the time, typical management tools included: trap trees; funnel traps; fall and burn; baiting; and salvage/remediation harvesting.
For this project, the mechanical modification treatment of the post-harvest fuel has two objectives:
– create a fuel-free buffer zone three meters wide around the perimeter of the harvested areas and around the internal retention plates, and prepare a prescribed burning;
– coarsely pile fuels and burn them in areas that the BC Wildfire Service has identified as unsuitable for broadcast burning due to small amounts of contiguous debris remaining on site.
“In both scenarios, due to the slope of the terrain in some areas, the machine will need to be tethered and hooked up to a winch,” said Angela French, wildfire mitigation supervisor for the DRCK. “This system helps the machine move up and down the slope to complete modification treatments.”
The project can be considered somewhat of a fuel reduction treatment pilot project, French said, since this type of project has not been done to this extent by any of the project partners before.
“Winch-assisted machine capability is rare for logging contractors in the Kootenays, however, due to the amount of steep terrain that surrounds high-risk urban interface communities, it is expected to become highly sought after. to complement these types of landscape wildfire mitigation treatments,” French wrote in his report.
Source: RDCK June agenda
where there is smoke
The fire diffused by the project could add negatively to the smoky sky effect.
The effects of smoke in the fall and potentially in the spring when prescribed burning and pile burning occur.
“There is a very specific window in which the conditions exist for these controlled fires to persist,” French said, and that includes temperature, ventilation and hardening.
“This project has been in the media since its inception, which has raised awareness of the need for fire and, therefore, smoke. With this increased awareness, it is expected that the message around the “good fire” versus the consequence of fire suppression, inevitably increasing the risk of uncontrolled wildfire and smoke, will be socially supported. »
Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily