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City going ahead with forest fire reduction plan

Council has authorized city staff to enter into a professional services agreement for the completion of a Forest Management Plan.

Arne Petryshen

Council has authorized city staff to enter into a professional services agreement for the completion of a Forest Management Plan for city-owned forest lands.

The agreement is with RW. Gray Consulting Ltd, and is up to a maximum value of $13,500, which will be funded out of the city’s Fire Hazardous Fuel Fund Reserve.

Coun. Norma Blissett was pleased to see the motion come forward.

She asked whether the area of land between the College of the Rockies and the community forest was also included.

“It’s quite overcrowded with Douglas Fir and certainly is a fire hazard,” Blissett said. “That area really puts Park Royal in danger.”

Kevin Weaver, the city’s Business and Economic Development Manager, replied that the portion of land Blissett was referring to is in a transition area.

“A portion of it is still Crown land — closer to the community forest — and some of it is still in the city’s jurisdiction, and some of it is also owned by the college,” Weaver said.

He also confirmed it would be included in the plan.

The city noted that the revenue generated through the harvest treatment of lands identified in the forest management plan will be used to replenish the Fire Hazardous Fuel Fund Reserve and fund future hazardous fuel treatments.

Back in February of 2014, the city council of the time authorized staff to develop a $10,000 application under Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) Climate Resiliency Adaption Program for the development of the proposed Forest Management Plan. City staff noted that it was then that council authorized the funds for the city’s portion of the project costs to come from the fund reserve.

The city prepared an application for the CBT’s consideration, however during the long adjudication process, the CBT discontinued the program prior to the application being approved for funding through the Trust.

In developing the Forest Management Plan concept and associated CBT applications staff worked directly with Robert Gray, of R.W. Gray Consulting Ltd., which the city noted is a well-regarded fire ecologist in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and Canada.

Gray is one of the principal authors for the 2003 BC Firestorms Report, also known as the Philmon Report.

Despite the CBT application not being approved Gray commenced preparation of the plan in association with Geoff Byford of the local forestry consulting firm “Maple Leaf Consulting”. Staff have paid out the two invoices — totalling $11,517 — submitted by Gray for the work completed to date.

Completion of the project will resume upon approval from council.

City staff said they continue to support that proposal and “as demonstrated by this summer’s fire season, feel this type of plan is more important than ever for safeguarding the residents and property within the city,” staff wrote.

The city said the plan will also likely be able to be applied outside the city limits to help address fire hazards posed by unmanaged private lands in nearby rural areas like Gold Creek.