Military aircraft approaches lightning-sparked forest fires near Williams Lake during the summer of 2017. (Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

MLAs unanimous on B.C. wildfire recovery

Finance committee calls for rapid salvage, reforestation

MLAs touring B.C. communities in advance of the NDP’s first budget have called for incentives to salvage wildfire-damaged timber, and increased forest fuel management and reforestation.

The all-party committee of the B.C. legislature held hearings in 12 communities this fall, and unanimously focused their main recommendation on the aftermath of B.C.’s record area burned in summer forest fires.

“Committee members heard from business owners in areas affected by the wildfires who are facing labour shortages due to a number of employees not returning home after evacuation,” says the committee’s final report to Finance Minister Carole James.

RELATED: Ranchers await AgriRecovery funds

Chaired by NDP MLA Bob D’Eith (Maple Ridge-Mission) and B.C. Liberal MLA Dan Ashton (Penticton), and including B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver (Oak Bay-Gordon Head) the committee stressed the need to “incentivize” the harvest of fire-damaged timber in southern and central B.C.

That’s a delicate issue for B.C., already subject to punitive tariffs by the U.S. government, after their latest industry claims of dumping and government subsidy from the cost of Crown land timber. Any government program assisting Canadian producers is seized upon by U.S. interests.

In an phone call from Tokyo during B.C.’s annual Asia lumber trade mission, Donaldson said efforts are underway to implement the main recommendations of the finance committee.

RELATED: U.S. lumber dispute drives B.C.’s effort in Asia

“We’re expediting the harvest of fire-impacted timber and getting it to the mills in a timely manner, because we know how the wood can degrade quickly,” Donaldson said. “Also, we have allocated $140 million over the next two years into forest enhancement, and that also involves the management of urban interface forests and fuel mitigation.”

The committee also calls for public education “to develop a culture of prevention, preparedness and resiliency among British Columbians regarding natural disasters, including wildfires, floods, hazardous material spills, earthquakes and tsunamis.”


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