Cortes Forestry General Partnership Public Meeting Covers Wildfire Prevention and the Five-Year Plan

The Cortes Forestry General Partnership (CFGP) held a public meeting on Thursday, May 30, 2024. CFGP is an equal partnership between the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Community Forest Co-operative and manages operations in the Community Forest, comprised of much of the island’s Crown forests. 

The main theme of the meeting was wildfire prevention. Fire Chief Eli McKenty offered an opening presentation on ways the Community Forest and Cortes Island Fire Department are collaborating to reduce fire risks. 

A Brief CFGP Operations History

0ver the past decade, CFGP has undertaken logging activities in five areas within their land base. Those areas, the years they were logged, and the volumes of wood taken out of each are as follows:

  • 2015 Larsen’s Meadow (LAR1–5): 4,574 m3
  • 2016 Squirrel Cove (SQ1–5): 4,569 m3
  • 2017 Squirrel Cove (SQ4): 424 m3
  • 2018 Green Mountain (GM1): 1,783 m3
  • 2019 Carrington (CAR1): 1,020 m3
  • 2022 Von Donop (VON1): 6,896 m3
  • 2023-4 Gorge Harbour (GH1): 251 m3

Most recently, their activities have focused on the Gorge Harbour/Anvil Lake area. Mark Lombard, the CFGP’s operations manager, said this area was chosen due in part to its inclusion as a priority area in the 2020 update to the Cortes Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The recent operations also provided logs for local mills, earning CFGP enough money to cover the costs of building the road into the operational area. Firewood was also gleaned and distributed for free as part of the project. 

Lombard said one leg of road was completed in 2023 and another in 2024. In addition, an area was cleared that could be used as a fire truck turn-around. The next five-year plan does not include any further work in the Gorge Harbour area. Tree planting and tending throughout the Community Forest active land base were another important part of CFGP’s ongoing work in 2023-24.

Wildfire Protection

The areas of road building and tree harvesting in the Gorge Harbour cut block represent a fire break intended to help slow a ground fire to the north from encroaching on lands to the south of the new road and cleared areas. The logged areas were planted in Douglas fir, as per Provincial requirements. This may limit the long-term viability of the fire break, since young forests of trees that are all the same age and species are more susceptible to fire than multi-aged forests that include older trees and various tree species. Nevertheless, Chief McKenty pointed out that a well-tended stand will still pose a lower fire risk over time. It is also possible linear openings in the forest could results in increased wind channeling. McKenty and Lombard acknowledged the understanding of best forestry strategies to prevent wildfires is still evolving.

CFGP, in collaboration with the Cortes Fire Department, has secured several large water tanks that are being placed strategically on Community Forest land. Two tanks have been installed and filled at Carrington/Coulter Bay. The next two tanks will be installed in the Gorge Harbour area near Thunder Rd and across from the Highway shed. The Fire Department and CFGP are also considering installing sprinklers along the new road in the Gorge Harbour area.

More wildfire risk mitigation work may take place in other areas identified in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan as high-priority areas—Coulter Bay and Squirrel Cove—over the next few years, as funding is expected to become available soon.

From the Cortes Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan, 2020 update. Available on the CFGP website http://www.cortesforestrypartnership.com/wp-content/uploads/2020_Cortes_CWPP_FINAL.pdf

Mother Tree Network Collaboration

The Mother Tree Network has been collecting data from Community Forest areas that have already been cut to assess the effects of various logging practices on soil carbon, total forest carbon, and biodiversity. As a next step, they will be visiting all of the blocks included in the upcoming five-year plan to perform pre- and post-harvest assessments. 

The Mother Tree Network has secured funding for forest restoration to enhance biodiversity in second- and third-growth tree plantations in the Carrington/Coulter Bay and Larsen’s Meadow areas of the Community Forest, which Lombard said are severely overgrown. This will involve pruning and thinning, as well as planting native plants and shrubs, and should have the added advantage of reducing wildfire risk. 

Five-Year Plan

The new five-year plan includes operations in Larsen’s Meadow, Carrington/Coulter Bay, Green Mountain, Squirrel Cove, and Von Donop. The next logging operation could occur as soon as this fall, depending on local demand for logs. Ideally, CFGP hopes to have completed plans in place for all of the areas in the five-year plan so they can be flexible in deciding where operations will occur each year. More on-site tours will be scheduled as timing is solidified.

Timber harvesting land base (THLB) of the CFGP. Areas to be logged in the next five years are indicated in purple. Available on the CFGP website: http://www.cortesforestrypartnership.com/wp-content/uploads/THLB-Overview-map-2017-2022-2024-2028v2-1.pdf

The Larsen’s Meadow work is likely to happen early in the five-year cycle and is partly intended to increase sunlight in the previously cut areas by thinning the canopy in three blocks on the south side of the existing road. This is hoped to enhance the growth of replanted trees, which are not growing as fast as required by the Province. In addition, the road will be extended to access a block to the east of the previous cut blocks, where more thinning is planned. 

Related article: https://cortescurrents.ca/cortes-community-forest-five-year-plan-update-tour-of-the-larsens-meadow-cut-block/

Logging in two blocks in the Carrington/Coulter Bay area may also occur relatively early in the five-year cycle, especially if funding for wildfire mitigation in this area becomes available soon. The goal would be to do both wildfire mitigation and harvesting in a single time frame. The forest in these blocks will be thinned, as it was in blocks that were cut in 2019.

Two blocks in the Green Mountain area are included in the five-year plan and may be logged later in the cycle. Some areas within the Green Mountain forest have been designated for old growth recruitment by the Province. This means they have been identified as forests with trees over 80 years old and have the potential to become old growth forests relatively soon. This will be a consideration as operational plans become finalized. More tours will be offered closer to the expected beginning of logging.

Related article: https://cortescurrents.ca/cortes-community-forest-five-year-plan-update-tour-of-the-green-mountain-cut-block/

Activity in Squirrel Cove is also expected to occur later in the five-year cycle. The road into this area was engineered as part of 2016 operations and will be built to access two blocks to the south of the previously logged areas. It is expected these blocks will be thinned, rather than cleared. Tours will be scheduled closer to the operations date.

The Von Donop area will be accessed by a new road through Klahoose territory. Issues related to road construction are still under discussion, and no details regarding logging in the Von Donop block are available at this time. 

Note: Maureen Williams is a former director on the board of the Cortes Community Forest Co-op.

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