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Landscape fire management needed to reduce risk of catastrophe in B.C.

Landscape fire management needed to reduce risk of catastrophe in B.C.
GOVERNMENT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA — A wildfire burns in British Columbia in September 2018.

VICTORIA — A new report from the B.C. Forest Practices Board says British Columbia needs to change how it manages forests and landscapes to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

The board is calling for landscape fire management to proactively tackle the wildfire risk.

Keith Atkinson, chair of the Forest Practices Board, said the province’s approach to fire suppression over the past century combined with climate change has put B.C. at risk for unprecedented fires.

Policies “have led to a buildup of fuel in our forests and have contributed to the loss of natural firebreaks in some areas. These shifts, combined with forestry policies and climate-change effects, greatly increase the risk of catastrophic wildfire. We’re already seeing the consequences this year, with its unusually early start and record-setting wildfires,” Atkinson said.

According to a news release, 45 per cent of public land in the province is in a state of high or extreme threat of wildfire and the cost of wildfire suppression now averages $1 billion annually in Western Canada.

Landscape fire management would include strategies like creating fuel breaks, increasing tree diversity, densities and ages, and the use of cultural and prescribed burning.

“Implementing this scale of change to land management can only happen with strong leadership and collaboration. This is not a task that can be accomplished by one agency, but will require all levels of government, industry and the B.C. public to work together to do things differently,” said Atkinson.

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