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July 16, 2017 | What Today’s B.C. Wildfires Can Tell us About the Future

Stewart Muir is founder and executive director of the Resource Works Society, a Vancouver-based group open to participation by British Columbians from all walks of life who are concerned about their future economic opportunities. He is an author, journalist and historian with experience on three continents including a financial editor of The Vancouver Sun responsible for mining and markets coverage. Since Resource Works was established in 2014, the group has gained international recognition for its practical approach to the public challenges of responsible natural resource development and use.

Escalating devastation in the British Columbia Interior is creating widespread hardship. Through this testing time, we should also be thinking about future-proofing the province’s people and resources, since the problems aren’t going away.

Lives are at stake today and we can only hope that wildfire-affected communities are evacuated safely while a dynamic situation unfolds. It will also be helpful to consider some facts towards building an informed perspective, because there is going to be a lot of attention on why our forests are in the state they are in and what needs to be done in the future.

hydro-remote.jpgHere are five talking points:

  1. Increasing development in rural areas means there is more value to protect. The photo above of a transmission line is one example of a vulnerable asset located in a forest.
  2. There are limits to fire suppression capacity and budgets. In 2009-10, $600 million was spent and in each of 2014 and 2015 the cost amounted to $300 million.
  3. The legacy of the mountain pine beetle epidemic is a vast amount of fuel.
  4. Climate change predictions mean the intensity of severe fires is going to double by 2040-50.
  5. All of this adds up to serious impacts to natural resources, government assets, industries, communities, health and our economy.

This slide, from a wildfire expert’s presentation at the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association in 2016, shows the trend toward more severe wildfires:

The trend is a worry for many reasons, one of them being the importance of a healthy forest sector for the economy. The following infographic (from the ILMA, Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association) shows the linkages:



There are plenty of good reasons to value and respect our natural places. When we lose trees, we lose natural habitat that can be a well-managed resource creating benefits throughout the B.C. economy long into the future. But unless serious long-term issues are faced down, today that future is at risk.

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July 16th, 2017

Posted In: Resource Works

One Comment

  • Avatar Walt S says:

    Perhaps the writer should be aware that studies show that forest fires are started by people in at least 80% of the cases. One forest fire season typically releases almost as much C02 as the transportation industry in the state or region. To blame so called climate change is typical political hysteria and panders to the cultural winds of today. One might see that what has changed is the population, quite a simple concept, a century ago far fewer people were in the forests and fewer man made fires. Yes there will be more fires in the future as long as the population keeps rising. Blaming a colorless, odorless, life giving gas that is an essential building block of tree growth is rather absurd.

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