Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Wildfire Resiliency Research and Extension

Wildfire risk reduction is a critical concern in BC and elsewhere. Our wildfire initiative is engaging with the public and developing information to inform policies and practices designed to reduce the vulnerability of communities and forests to negative effects of wildfires.

In April 2019, the Northern Conference for Wildfire Resiliency (NCWR), a collaborative, working conference was hosted by the BVRC to bring together key local players to promote a collective response to partnerships, practices, policies, and planning paradigms that will increase the resiliency of Northern BC’s forests and communities to wildfires. The NCWR participants came to consensus on the need for a new approach to wildfire management. Key provincial government officials committed to working to increase landscape wildfire resiliency. With funding from the BC Wildfire Service and other agencies the BV Centre embarked upon a fire research initiative to help inform future management actions. For more information visit Northern Conference for Wildfire Resilience - Bulkley Valley Research Centre.

The BVRC’s transdisciplinary fire research has three main components: 1) developing a better understanding of historical fire regimes and past forest management practices in northern BC and how they relate to the current forest/fuel structure and wildfire fire behaviour (leading to threat), 2) studying post-wildfire reforestation and carbon dynamics and 3) understanding the effects of fire on ecosystem components and in particular on plants of importance to First Nations and wildlife and endangered species. Our approach weaves literature reviews, data compilation and analysis, ecological fieldwork, remote sensing, and fire modeling together with Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) to better understand historic fire regime variability, fire effects and the linkages of past management practices to current forest fuel structure.

Forest and land use history is being documented to support development of a managed wildfire strategy and fuel treatment program to reduce risks. Frequency and spatial extent of historic fires (circa 1600-1950) within selected NDT3 forests are being mapped and local fire knowledge and Indigenous fire management systems (through historical documents and interviews) assessed. Current seral stage distribution in relation to the natural range of variation and implications of altered vegetation patterns for wildfire risk is being quantified. Prescribed burned sites on crown land (circa 1980-present) are being studied to better understand their stand attributes and contribution of fire to achieving specific objectives including reducing wildfire risk.

We are working in partnership with government agencies, universities (i.e., UBC, UNBC, UWaterloo, UoA), First Nations, and others.

A wide range of extension material such as guideline documents, visual guides, and infographics will be produced. Journal papers and report will be published, and results disseminated through various media, seminars, conferences, workshops, and collaborator networks. Peer reviewed research results will be made available to government agencies, forest professionals and others and integrated into decision support tools including carbon and stand models.

The BVRC is planning to host a one-day workshop in the spring of 2022 in the Skeena Region. The goal of the workshop will be to provide government staff, scientists, community members, and First Nations an opportunity to review the results of the various research projects and discuss applications of the information. This could include silvicultural and landscape planning options for fuel reduction, wildfire management, and enhancement of important values (e.g., culturally important plants, endangered species, wildlife habitat/forage). Additional outcomes may include focused discussions regarding increasing capacity for prescribed burning programs and incorporation of IEK into wildfire management strategies.

Project Status: Active
Led by: Evelyn Hamilton, Kira Hoffman, Phil Burton, Sam Coggins, Alana Clason, Irene Ronalds, Dawn Hanson
Funders: BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (BC MFLNRORD through the BC Wildfire Service, Climate Change and Integrated Planning Branch’s Forest Carbon Initiative, Ecosystem Restoration Program, and the North Area Skeena Region, BC MoE Parks Living Labs, Canadian Forest Service (CFS), Forest Enhancement Society (FESBC), Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Society for Ecosystem Restoration in northern BC (SERNbc), National Geographic, and Canada Summer Jobs.

Funders for the NCWR conference included: BC MFLNRORD through BC Wildfire Service and the North Area, BC Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Canfor, West Fraser Timber, Hampton Lumber, Pinnacle Renewable Energy, Chinook Community Forest, Burns Lake Community Forest, Eclipse Geomatics, Northern Fire WoRx, and Shifting Mosaics Consulting.