National Forest Week (NFW) is here. The Canadian Institute of Forestry shares that, “each year NFW is celebrated across Canada by many individuals and diverse governmental and nongovernmental organizations. During NFW, Canadians are invited to learn more about Canada’s forest heritage and to raise awareness about this valuable and renewable resource. Forests are fundamental to our economy, culture, traditions, and history – and to our future. Communities, families, and individuals depend on forests for their livelihood and way of life.”
The dependency on forests for jobs, recreation, education, and a general way of life could not be more true than it is in the Kootenay Boundary region of our province. Good paying forestry jobs in more rural and remote communities in our region mean that local people can work closer to home, giving them the opportunity to be home almost every night with their families and participate in their local community, too. Our role in forestry and how we take care of the West Boundary Community Forest today means that we can provide good jobs and opportunities for contractors, logging truck drivers, silviculture companies, and forest consultants. Our future-focused stewardship role of our community forest means that when managed well, our forests will be around for generations so that locals can continue to work in the industry in the Kootenay Boundary region. Forestry is critical to our local economy. Managed by the Osoyoos Indian Band forestry department, our forest practices in the West Boundary Community Forest encompass the values and sustainable approaches that our local First Nation follows.
This past summer, we’ve all seen the devastating effects of wildfires, not only “way out in the forest” but close to communities like Osoyoos, West Kelowna, Kelowna, and in the Shuswap region with fires coming right into neighbourhoods and destroying homes, outbuildings, infrastructure, and more. Part of the work we do in the West Boundary Community Forest is wildfire risk reduction work, where we remove dry fuels that have accumulated over decades and thin out the dense forest stands. When we space trees and clear out additional forest fuels on the ground, we know that in the event of a wildfire, that this work can reduce the speed and intensity of the threat, providing the BC Wildfire Service a chance to better control the fire. Our experience, especially when we do this thinning work close to community or in a highly visible location, is that we on occasion receive questions and concerns from people who want to see a thick, dense forest. Our goal is to work with locals, share with them the work we intend to do, not only to hear and understand their concerns, but help them understand why this work is important. Our management results in a balance between maintaining the aesthetics of our beautiful landscape while protecting our communities and homes from imminent wildfires.
As foresters, we appreciate the opportunity National Forest Week brings when a brighter spotlight is focused on forestry. It allows us to share what we’re doing at the West Boundary Community Forest and provides education and understanding for our community members to learn more about how we are stewarding our forests. Each year, we bring dozens of classes from the local school district up to our Wilgress Lake location for opportunities for them to learn about sustainable forestry, ecological principles, and local flora and fauna. We look forward to officially opening our newly constructed learning shelter at the Outdoor Education Centre in spring of 2024. We are also working on additional learning opportunities with two post-secondary schools we look forward to sharing more details about shortly.
We hope that during this National Forest Week, you take the opportunity to consider how important our forests are to our local economy, our environment, and our future. We invite you to find out more about your West Boundary Community Forest when you see us at a local community event or follow us on Facebook.
We’re all about healthy forests and healthy communities. - Dan Macmaster, Community Forest Manager, West Boundary Community Forest