Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson says the province is working on a new program to protect communities from wildfire.
He says they met with the wildlife branch and the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations this week and were able to provide some input.
Simpson says this will replace the Strategic Wildfire Protection Initiative that was formed under the previous Liberal Government…
“It’s a replacement for the old program, called the Strategic Wildfire Protection Initiative. So it’s a replacement for that program so it includes all of the aspects of that program, developing a community wildfire plan, doing treatments on crown land, that program will be replaced by this.”
He says one of the problems with the previous plan was that it didn’t include any money for private landowners…
“In the case of the city of Quesnel for example and the North Cariboo region area surrounding us, our community wildfire plan has about 60 percent private property/40 percent crown land. So while we spent most of our time gong back and fourth with the province saying why should municipal taxpayers be funding fuel management treatments on crown land outside our boundaries, one of the missing ingredients was assistance to private landowners to also do fuel management protection on their private land. So even if we had the most robust program in place and we did all the treatments that we needed to on crown land, we still a very high vulnerability in the Quesnel area with all the private land that surrounds our community.”
Simpson says unless the landowner has premium sawlogs that they can make money from, the work is just too expensive…
“To actually be able to take a look at your land, especially large tracts of private land and develop the most appropriate treatment, called a prescription, and to really know what you’re going to do and how best to do it and then get in and do it, and especially if there is no timber involved, it’s just a lot of fuel management work, hand treatments, getting rid of ladder fuels, getting rid of brush on the ground, there is no money in doing that, so it’s a huge disincentive for private landowners.”
He says another thing they’ve asked for is for help with up front costs to actually do some proposal writing to put in applications for funding, something he says is a huge problem for municipalities as it can cost up to 100 thousand dollars in some cases.
Simpson says he expects that the Community Resiliancy Investment Program, or CRIP, will be announced in the fall.
Prior to that, Simpson says there won’t be any gaps as applications in under the previous program will still be worked on.