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Wildfires have had “severe implications” for the Nechako Watershed

The worst of the fire season is over, but now the work begins on the effects that it brings.

The Nechako Watershed Roundtable (NWR), an initiative to “protect and improve the health of the Nechako watershed for future generations,” is holding its annual meeting on Friday in Nautley, B.C to discuss the impacts of the 2018 wildfires on the Nechako watershed and the communities that depend on its health.

According to Brian Frenkel, co-chair of the NWR, the Nechako River effects Prince George, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser lake, Burns Lake and the smaller communities of Grassy Plains. It covers five municipalities, 14 first nations communities and 2 regional districts.

In this year’s fire season about 450,000 hectares, around 11% of the total region, was burned.

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“We want to find out what the impacts are, not just to timber. We want to look at wildlife, fisheries, agriculture and what’s happening on the land base as a whole,” said Frenkel.   

The upcoming roundtable will be an information gathering session on what exactly those impacts are, and they hope to use that to decide where to focus their efforts in the winter months.

One important factor the NWR will be looking at is the effect on salmon stocks.

“What does large loss of land base mean to salmon stocks? What does 600 km of fire guard mean in the one fire of the island lakes fire, what does that mean to habitat?”

In a statement of concern they sent to Premier John Horgan, Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson and Minister of Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, the NWR requested that recommendation 104 of the 21st Century Disaster Relief in British Columbia report be implemented immediately

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The recommendation asks that “following wildfire events, promptly undertake timber supply reviews to enable industry response and adaption to a new annual allowable cut, and to allow BC to better understand and respond to impacts on habitat, fibre availability and community stability.”

The NWR said they have “grave concerns” for the health of the region following a decade of unprecedented wildfire impacts along with other disturbances including “forest pest outbreaks” and salvage logging. They say this combination of factors has created severe implication for run-off and flood risk, erosion, water quality and habitat.

 

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