FORT NELSON -- The Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. has invested over $250-thousand towards a wildfire risk reduction project in Fort Nelson.

Through the Ministry of Forest, the $257,250 wildfire-mitigation project is for the Fort Nelson Community Forest to create a fuel break to protect Fort Nelson and the Alaska Highway.

Lorence Forsberg, the board chair at the Fort Nelson First Nation and Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Community Forest General Partner Corporation, says “With this funding, the Fort Nelson Community Forest will support and invest in community wildfire prevention initiatives.”

According to the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., it is the province’s largest community forest that’s proactively undertaking wildfire risk reduction work.

The Fuel Treatment Project is set to address 20 hectares of forest, roughly the size of 37 football fields, along the southwest side of the Alaska Highway. They will create a shaded fuel break using mechanical treatments to clear and reduce the growth of plants and trees in the area using machines or equipment.

This aims to slow wildfire spread, enhance suppression efforts and firefighter safety, reduce the risk of a wildfire spreading up into the crown or tops of trees, and maintain vital evacuation routes for public safety, explains the environmental society.

Katherine Wolfenden, the board chair of the project, says, “This project will help the local community have more control over where and how firebreaks and selective reduction of high-risk areas occur next to the community.”

Ben Wall, the general manager of the community forest, agrees. He says, “Funding is required to continue the research, planning, and monitoring of the forest, the use of qualified and experienced professionals as well as continuing to promote local engagement.”

The community forest will also promote forest sustainability through wildlife habitat preservation, timber harvesting, wildfire mitigation efforts, and recreational opportunities.

According to Matt Pilszek, RFT, Forestry and Construction Manager with Geoterra, the fuel mitigation treatment will reduce the accumulation of flammable vegetation and deadwood, which helps reduce the risk of large, destructive wildfires detrimental to wildlife habitat.

“Fuel mitigation through selective thinning of trees can help preserve and restore the natural vegetation and forest structure within the Boreal caribou ungulate winter range. This is important because these animals rely on specific types of vegetation for food and shelter during the winter. Selective thinning techniques can promote the growth of new vegetation in the understory (the layer of vegetation that grows beneath the forest canopy, consisting of smaller plants, shrubs, and young trees) while maintaining habitat connectivity within the landscape,” said Pilszek.

The fuel mitigation project will utilize local businesses, including forestry contractors, equipment operators, local First Nations land guardians, and service providers.