Nakusp community forest hosts open house

NACFOR is 100 per cent owned by the Village of Nakusp
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Wildfire Risk Reduction work in the Wensley Creek area (Unit 5) from November 2023 (the most recent completed WRR work). This shows the spacing created in the tree stand, and the piles of extra fuel to be burned. (NACFOR)

It was a strong turnout on the evening of May 8 for the Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR) open house. Brochures and posters with information on various completed and ongoing projects were on display, and staff and board directors were available to answer questions.

Operating since 2008, NACFOR is 100 per cent owned by the Village of Nakusp, allowing the community to benefit from forestry operations. NACFOR has been managed under contract by Cabin Resource Management for the past year.

“Community forestry is a very direct reflection of our goal as foresters to uphold the public interest,” said Mike Crone, NACFOR project manager. “I’ve enjoyed zooming in scale-wise to such a small land base and really getting to know everything that’s going on.

“But at the same time, the scope is way wider than what you get to do in regular forestry.

“You get to do a bunch of everything, and get super involved in the community while doing it, which is exciting.”

Forest operations

On display was the 2024 Forest Operations Map (FOM), which is open for public review and comment until May 25.

NACFOR manages 9,192 hectares of forest land base. The FOM depicts proposed and finalized cutblocks, wildlife tree retention areas, and road sections.

“Lots of it’s out in the McDonald Creek area, focusing on chasing fir beetle,” said Crone.

“We are looking to harvest just under 20,000 metres total.”

Douglas-fir bark beetle is a native species related to the mountain pine and spruce beetles. It attacks dead or dying trees. Populations are increasing to epidemic levels due to warmer winters and other favourable conditions. Larger populations of beetles can target otherwise healthy Douglas-fir trees.

To manage the beetle, NACFOR uses pheromone funnel traps to lure the insects away from trees. However, as populations rise, this is becoming more of a monitoring strategy. NACFOR also fells ‘trap trees’ near infestations, to hopefully attract the beetles away from healthy trees and towards the susceptible fallen trees.

To review and comment on the FOM, visit https://fom.nrs.gov.bc.ca/public/projects

Tributary restoration

The Arrow Lakes Tributary Habitat Restoration Project is a new initiative this year.

In the fall, NACFOR will begin planting deciduous and coniferous trees, native shrubs, and grass species as part of riparian restoration of Taite Creek. Parts of the Taite Creek watershed were burned by wildfire in 2021. The initiative will protect fish habitat, restore and enhance wildlife habitat and connectivity, and reduce sedimentation and erosion. Funding will come from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and NACFOR.

NACFOR will also work with the Sinixt Confederacy on the Mosquito Creek In-Stream Habitat Enhancement project. This will see the restoration and enhancement of up to 33 kilometres of in-stream habitat through stream channel stabilization and erosion control. Important species include rainbow trout, bull trout, and kokanee. Plan development will begin this year, with in-stream work starting in 2025. The Sinixt Confederacy applied for funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. NACFOR will also seek funds from CBT.

“If these two projects go well, we’re hoping it can be a regular, long-term initiative up and down the Arrow Lakes,” said Crone.

Community benefit

NACFOR uses forest operation revenues to give back to the community in several ways.

In partnership with School District 10, NACFOR supports student learning through hiking and nature activities, tree planting, tree and plant identification, and biologist talks.

NACFOR disburses funds to community groups and projects via its dividends, determined by the NACFOR board of directors and presented annually to the Village of Nakusp.

The v illage invests the funds into the NACFOR Legacy Fund, which gets disbursed to projects that benefit communities in Nakusp, Area K, and Summit Lake Ski Hill. To date, it has disbursed $2,572,610 to the community.

Recreation

NACFOR has built numerous family-friendly trails, creating unique recreational and educational opportunities.

The four-kilometre Jackrabbit Interpretive Trail, located in the Wensley Creek Area, was created with the help of the Nakusp Trails Society and the Arrow Lakes Cross-Country Ski Club, with funding from CBT. It features interpretive signs about vegetation, area history, and wildlife identification.

Arrow Park Trail offers access to beach and picnic spots. It is also part of the working community forest. Trail users can pass by several recently harvested sections, which offer insight into managed forests and reforestation processes. It is five kilometres from McDonald Creek Park, on the way to Burton and Fauquier.

Galena Bay Trail is a short loop trail located at the Galena Bay ferry landing. It traverses the shoreline of Arrow Lake, before wending into the forest.

Wildfire risk reduction

NACFOR takes its cues from the 2017 Community Wildfire Protection Plan when identifying proposed fuel treatment units around Nakusp.

Treatment units completed in 2023 were Unit 8-4, Upper Brouse Road adjacent to the Wensley Creek Cross Country Ski trails; Unit 8-1, behind Arrow Lakes Hospital; Unit 10, along the Nakusp-Slocan Rail Trail from Gensick Road to 2nd Avenue NW; and Phase 1 of Unit 5, also adjacent to Wensley Creek.

On the docket for 2024 is phase two of Unit 5.

Last year, NACFOR was one of five community forests in the Kootenay region researched by UBC master’s student Kea Rutherford.

“I used two approaches to assess the efficacy of alternative fuel treatments to mitigate fire behaviour and effects in the seasonally dry forests of southeastern British Columbia,” she wrote in her thesis.

Her studies found that removing small trees “reduced risk of passive crown fire” but that larger tree removal was “necessary to reduce risk of active crown fire.”

The research is being continued this year by another student, Rachel Pekelney, building on Rutherford’s work. Pekelney will calculate the biomass and forest carbon load of tree stands, then compare the data to before- and after-effects of fuel treatments. This can estimate the potential carbon emissions of forests burning under a range of fire weather conditions.