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With wildfire season around the corner, the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia is funding a $1.6-million project to reduce the risk of wildfires around Kelowna.
Crews are focusing on an area near Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park with a goal of thinning out dense stands of pine and Douglas-fir trees.
Dead wood that currently poses a significant fire hazard in an area around 1,000-hectares in size will be removed as well.
In addition, a number of 15-hectare and 50-hectare blocks have been identified to receive landscape-level treatments to reduce wildfire threats.
The treatment includes thinning trees, trimming the lower branches - or ladder fuels - and removing that wood and other forest fuels from the ground.
“This project and other wildfire risk reduction projects provide an enhanced level of safety for local residents and help protect local infrastructure,” said Doug Donaldson, minister of forests.
“This project is one example of how funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. is making a difference in the Okanagan and elsewhere in the province.”
Funding was applied for by the City of Kelowna and, once it was approved, the City’s urban forestry supervisor, Andrew Hunsberger, has been working closely with ministry staff.
Part of that work is engaging with private landowners and keeping them updated on the project.
“Whenever we’re removing trees from areas close to parks and homes, people are naturally interested in the details of what’s happening,” said Hunsberger.
“We hosted open houses and engagement sessions to let the general public and landowners know why this project is necessary, explain the many benefits for citizens and the environment and outline what to expect when work got underway.”
A wildlife biologist was also engaged during the development of the treatment plan to ensure that the planned activities would help protect and enhance this valuable habitat.
The local Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd. has already begun the initial tree-thinning work and BC Wildfire Service crews will take over once that job is complete.