Posted by: Dave Neads | March 9, 2008

Firs, Wildfires and Logging

It is an odd morning. Not only has daylight saving arrived, shoving my routine back into the earlier part of the new morning, but when I went out to move the panels, my attention was caught by the sight of an old fir backlit by a brilliant blue sky with big fluffy snowflakes floating down though its rugged branches. The bark on the old fir is thick, gnarled and fissured, evidence of long patient centuries spent observing the universe. The reds and grays on the massive trunk are blended with the browns and black where fires of yesterday left their mark.

These fires are part of this ecosystem, more so than on the wet side over the mountain from here. We’ve only been in the Precipice a little over 20 years, but we have had one fire within half a mile, one just over a mile away and three large ones in the vicinity. These fires usually occur in June, ignited by lightning strikes during the spectacular thunderstorms we get at that time of year.

The global warming predictions are that the number and intensity of fires in the interior will increase. In response to this there is a current hue and cry to log the forest and ‘fireproof’ it by removing trees, especially beetle killed ones, woody debris and underbrush. This is a complicated issue, but the point that strikes home to me this morning as I watch the gentle flakes lazily falling through the blue, is that, no matter what we do, no matter how much we try to remove the forest, we cannot predict WHERE the next fire will ignite.

This is the critical issue. All the logging and forest removal in the world, beetle killed or not, unless you take it all, will not reduce the incidence and severity of wildfire in the Chilcotin. The Chilcotin plateau and the interior dry forest that stretches from north eastern B.C down to northern California is a huge, continental-scale ecosystem which is beyond manipulation, especially fire-proofing by forest removal. No matter how much you log, there will always be plenty of forest left over for fire to feed on.

It would be nice if we could say “Yep, the next 5,000 hectare fire is going to occur in the headwaters of the Clisbako, so we’d better get in there and put in several 1000 hectare clear cuts, get that forest fireproofed !” Such utter nonsense.

So don’t be fooled by the self-serving arguments that say logging big chunks of Chilcotin or any interior dry forest will fireproof it.

The snow has stopped, the sun is blasting out its heat full force, there is steam rising from the grizzled old bark, looking for all the world like smoke and I am wondering where the next big fire will be. Well, no one knows, and that is part of the mystery of life here in the Chilcotin Ark, part of the eternal beauty that makes wild systems so special.




  1. Well written.

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