Climate Change Adaptation and Wildfire Protection in a Community Forest: Kaslo Community Forest

In response to some of the region’s largest and most fierce wildfires in recent British Columbia history, the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society (KDCFS) was granted $50,000 in 2018 from Forest Enhancement Society (FES) to develop a Landscape Level Wildfire Plan (LLWP) within its K3C tenure. The community forest is located in the West Kootenay region in south-eastern British Columbia at the northern tip of Kootenay Lake. It is recognized that the recent wildfire events represent a threshold in a changing climate and that in conjunction with the use of future climate models, new landscape management techniques are necessary in responding to the increasing local threat of wildfire. Increasing periods of summer drought interacting with raising temperatures and increasing severity of extreme weather, the incidence and severity of wildfires is expected to increase over the next several decades. Resilience planning in future Community Forest management will likely need to explore the probability of exceeding expected critical climatic thresholds that may impact forest ecology. The LLWP is a planning tool guided by BC’s Provincial Strategic Threat Analysis and aims at improving the safety for fire suppression crews, reducing the severity of fires while mitigating negative ecological impacts, and managing to engage natural forest disturbance regimes as appropriate under dynamic environmental and climatic site conditions. The KDCFS has prioritized wildfire planning throughout 2018 and 2019 and has engaged with the community and stakeholders alongside plan development by use of personal and public consultations, field tours, and social media as well as educational wildfire/climate presentations. The Kaslo/Shutty Wildfire Corridor Project was developed concurrently for immediate implementation throughout 2019-2021.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

This plan presents historical and projected climate data. The Kaslo Adjusted and Homogenized Canadian Climate Data (AHCCD) record formed the basis of the data used in understanding historical climate; however, missing data has become more frequent and data acquisition at the station appears to have ended in September 2018. Missing temperature and precipitation data in the Kaslo record were estimated from the Duncan Lake Dam (ECCC) and Queens Bay (BCH) records using the ‘buddy system’ for temperature and the Normal Ratio Method for precipitation. The century-scale climate history for the Southeast Fire Centre region was reconstructed with data from eight Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) AHCCD climate stations (Kaslo, Creston, Fauquier, Warfield, Grand Forks, Cranbrook, Golden and Revelstoke) and two standard ECCC stations with long and consistently recorded data (Fernie and Castlegar). The Kaslo AHCCD temperature and precipitation records were compared with the climate records in the Southeast Fire Centre region to ensure regional consistency. Consequently, the climate history for the immediate Kaslo area was based on the Kaslo AHCCD record. This plan compiles climate model projections for the Kaslo region that are associated with two RCPs: a ‘High Carbon’ pathway (RCP8.5) and a ‘Low Carbon’ pathway (RCP4.5). Climate model projections are based on output from an ensemble of 12 statistically downscaled Global Climate Model (GCM) projections from the Pacific Climate Institute Consortium. Trends in the regional records and the Kaslo temperature and precipitation time series were computed for the last ca. 100 years and for the last ca. 50 years. The significance of the trends was determined using the Mann-Kendall test. The magnitude of the trends was determined with the Theil-Sens approach. Climate impacts include increasing temperature, wetter, warmer winters, drier, warmer summers, more extreme precipitation events, and more extreme weather and lightning events. In addition to the direct human security risk associated with wildfire, wildfire also impacts soils, runoff, terrain stability, and water quality.

Identifying Actions

Understanding current fire dynamics and accessibility of various fire suppression options (i.e., ground, air, proximately to water) is essential in developing a local strategy. Recommendations in the plan are organized by three broad categories: Stakeholder Collaboration, Data Management, and Woodlands Management. Additionally, forest management decisions are made based on the four Wildfire Management Planning Units that are found within the extent of the forest license, which reflect broad climatic and topographic influence on landscape and vegetation.

As the Kaslo Community Forest formulates action plans for addressing the potential impacts of climate change in the region, vulnerability assessments and risk management strategies for specific aspects of forest and community management can be refined by incorporating the more detailed information provided by the extreme climate indices. This may be best achieved through an iterative process that involves the exploration of the probability of exceeding specific climatic thresholds that may impact forest health and forestry operations. Probability estimates of, for example, the number of heat waves/year, the number of days that maximum/minimum temperature or precipitation exceed a particular threshold, or the probability of maximum/minimum temperature or precipitation exceeding specific threshold within a particular timeframe, would be valuable to planners working with various specific aspects of forestry operations that may be critically sensitive to climate thresholds. It is likely that the next major advancement in resilience planning will involve this form of iterative process that will identify a suite of critical climate thresholds across all forestry operations, and detailed projections for those specific thresholds would comprise custom sets of climate projections which would address many forest manager’s specific needs for resilience planning.

Implementation

Kaslo and District Community Forest Society’s LLWP report outlines a set of 17 action recommendations which are organized under three overarching categories of Stakeholder Collaboration, Data Management, and Woodlands Management. The timeframe for the implementation of the recommended actions occurs between 2020-2024. An estimated budget is provided for each action and each year. Some examples of actions under each category include:

  • Stakeholder Collaboration
    • Foster regular information exchange with the BCWS zone officer and KVFD Chief. It promotes trust, protocol and speed of action when disaster strikes. Yearly pre-season planning meetings with BCWS and KVFD
    • Establish strategic landscape level Safe Zones with BCWS input
  • Data Management
    • Schedule LLWP updates every 5 years and share new data with stakeholders.
    • Collect fuel treatment data concurrently with timber development and silviculture data using standardized electronic Schema to directly upload into developed datasets.
  • Woodlands Management
    • Address wildfire risk through all phases of forest management planning
    • Establish and maintain strategic travel corridors as fuel breaks where possible. Dispose of slash piles expediently
    • Promote commercial thinning opportunities and practice intensive silviculture in medium to high SI stands as they shift towards increased flammability as they mature
    • Improve knowledge gaps through engagement with local research projects and knowledge sharing opportunities
    • Support climate research and develop prediction models improving forest management decisions. Further local weather station measurements.
    • Monitor for invasive species post burn and establish new forest cover to expedite ecosystem restoration.

A total estimated budget of $459,500 in 2020, $412,500 in 2021, $423,000 in 2022, $453,000 in 2023, and $374,500 in 2024 was provided for the implementation of all recommended actions.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The outcome of the planning phase of the project included the development of 17 recommended actions to be implemented to reduce the vulnerability of the Kaslo region to increasing severity and frequency of wildfire events. Implementation of the recommended actions is expected to take place between the 2020-2024 timeframe; however, monitoring details have not yet been recorded and made publicly available.

Next Steps

The Kaslo and District Community Forest Society intends on developing detailed action plans for addressing the impacts of climate change in the region, including conducting vulnerability assessments and risk management strategies for specific aspects of forest and community management, which is envisioned to be an iterative process, meaning that planning details will be updated based on new information and the changing local context.


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

This plan presents historical and projected climate data. The Kaslo Adjusted and Homogenized Canadian Climate Data (AHCCD) record formed the basis of the data used in understanding historical climate; however, missing data has become more frequent and data acquisition at the station appears to have ended in September 2018. Missing temperature and precipitation data in the Kaslo record were estimated from the Duncan Lake Dam (ECCC) and Queens Bay (BCH) records using the ‘buddy system’ for temperature and the Normal Ratio Method for precipitation. The century-scale climate history for the Southeast Fire Centre region was reconstructed with data from eight Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) AHCCD climate stations (Kaslo, Creston, Fauquier, Warfield, Grand Forks, Cranbrook, Golden and Revelstoke) and two standard ECCC stations with long and consistently recorded data (Fernie and Castlegar). The Kaslo AHCCD temperature and precipitation records were compared with the climate records in the Southeast Fire Centre region to ensure regional consistency. Consequently, the climate history for the immediate Kaslo area was based on the Kaslo AHCCD record. This plan compiles climate model projections for the Kaslo region that are associated with two RCPs: a ‘High Carbon’ pathway (RCP8.5) and a ‘Low Carbon’ pathway (RCP4.5). Climate model projections are based on output from an ensemble of 12 statistically downscaled Global Climate Model (GCM) projections from the Pacific Climate Institute Consortium. Trends in the regional records and the Kaslo temperature and precipitation time series were computed for the last ca. 100 years and for the last ca. 50 years. The significance of the trends was determined using the Mann-Kendall test. The magnitude of the trends was determined with the Theil-Sens approach. Climate impacts include increasing temperature, wetter, warmer winters, drier, warmer summers, more extreme precipitation events, and more extreme weather and lightning events. In addition to the direct human security risk associated with wildfire, wildfire also impacts soils, runoff, terrain stability, and water quality.

Identifying Actions

Understanding current fire dynamics and accessibility of various fire suppression options (i.e., ground, air, proximately to water) is essential in developing a local strategy. Recommendations in the plan are organized by three broad categories: Stakeholder Collaboration, Data Management, and Woodlands Management. Additionally, forest management decisions are made based on the four Wildfire Management Planning Units that are found within the extent of the forest license, which reflect broad climatic and topographic influence on landscape and vegetation.

As the Kaslo Community Forest formulates action plans for addressing the potential impacts of climate change in the region, vulnerability assessments and risk management strategies for specific aspects of forest and community management can be refined by incorporating the more detailed information provided by the extreme climate indices. This may be best achieved through an iterative process that involves the exploration of the probability of exceeding specific climatic thresholds that may impact forest health and forestry operations. Probability estimates of, for example, the number of heat waves/year, the number of days that maximum/minimum temperature or precipitation exceed a particular threshold, or the probability of maximum/minimum temperature or precipitation exceeding specific threshold within a particular timeframe, would be valuable to planners working with various specific aspects of forestry operations that may be critically sensitive to climate thresholds. It is likely that the next major advancement in resilience planning will involve this form of iterative process that will identify a suite of critical climate thresholds across all forestry operations, and detailed projections for those specific thresholds would comprise custom sets of climate projections which would address many forest manager’s specific needs for resilience planning.

Implementation

Kaslo and District Community Forest Society’s LLWP report outlines a set of 17 action recommendations which are organized under three overarching categories of Stakeholder Collaboration, Data Management, and Woodlands Management. The timeframe for the implementation of the recommended actions occurs between 2020-2024. An estimated budget is provided for each action and each year. Some examples of actions under each category include:

  • Stakeholder Collaboration
    • Foster regular information exchange with the BCWS zone officer and KVFD Chief. It promotes trust, protocol and speed of action when disaster strikes. Yearly pre-season planning meetings with BCWS and KVFD
    • Establish strategic landscape level Safe Zones with BCWS input
  • Data Management
    • Schedule LLWP updates every 5 years and share new data with stakeholders.
    • Collect fuel treatment data concurrently with timber development and silviculture data using standardized electronic Schema to directly upload into developed datasets.
  • Woodlands Management
    • Address wildfire risk through all phases of forest management planning
    • Establish and maintain strategic travel corridors as fuel breaks where possible. Dispose of slash piles expediently
    • Promote commercial thinning opportunities and practice intensive silviculture in medium to high SI stands as they shift towards increased flammability as they mature
    • Improve knowledge gaps through engagement with local research projects and knowledge sharing opportunities
    • Support climate research and develop prediction models improving forest management decisions. Further local weather station measurements.
    • Monitor for invasive species post burn and establish new forest cover to expedite ecosystem restoration.

A total estimated budget of $459,500 in 2020, $412,500 in 2021, $423,000 in 2022, $453,000 in 2023, and $374,500 in 2024 was provided for the implementation of all recommended actions.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The outcome of the planning phase of the project included the development of 17 recommended actions to be implemented to reduce the vulnerability of the Kaslo region to increasing severity and frequency of wildfire events. Implementation of the recommended actions is expected to take place between the 2020-2024 timeframe; however, monitoring details have not yet been recorded and made publicly available.

Next Steps

The Kaslo and District Community Forest Society intends on developing detailed action plans for addressing the impacts of climate change in the region, including conducting vulnerability assessments and risk management strategies for specific aspects of forest and community management, which is envisioned to be an iterative process, meaning that planning details will be updated based on new information and the changing local context.

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