Special to the Tribune
We got’er done!
Tuesday, August 2, was a great day for the members of the Charlotte Lake Landowners and Leaseholders Association, when they got the chance to show what could be done when they set their minds, hands and backs to it!
Cariboo South MLA Donna Barnett, Cariboo Regional District Manager of Protective Services Rowena Bastien, Stewardship Officer for the Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Operations District Kerri Howser, Information Officer Natasha Broznitsky and FLNRO District Manager Harold Stolar were among the guests and residents who took the grand tour of the community’s completed fuel management project.
Work was done on Crown Land that posed an extreme fire hazard.
Charlotte Lake property owners met the criteria and were finally granted $300,000 by the province to clean up and remove fire hazards such as trees spaced closely together, some with low-growing branches and ground cover in the surrounding Crown land.
Numerous reports had indicated extreme fire danger in the area.
The community effort started in 2003, the year after the disastrous fires that took a heavy toll in Kelowna.
The following year the Lonesome Lake fire threatened the Charlotte Lake community, and reports estimated the cost of fighting that fire was about $10 million.
Residents became seriously concerned when campers built campfires on the beach and left them burning unattended.
They made numerous calls to RCMP and often went to the campground and extinguished the fires.
The problem seemed to get worse, and with the increase in wildfires, the community association voted to pursue some funding and help to decrease the fire hazard.
A wildfire protection plan was completed in August 2012 by Scott Forrest from Prince George.
However, that was only the beginning.
Nobody anticipated how large the work load would be, but they never gave up.
Financing was one of the first challenges. The province would provide the funding to be administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
It was held up, and the next step was UBCM distributing the funds to the Cariboo Regional District.
Once again funds were slow in arriving. Funding delays climbed to a full year.
The completion of the project took just over two years, with weather one big factor in the delay.
Two hot dry summers prevented the work being completed. Then larger than average snow years stopped some work being carried out and delayed spring startup.
The project was designed with a partial cut followed by thinning, pruning and brush control.
A clearcut harvest would have been cheaper and would have helped with mistletoe control, but resistance might have come from the local residents.
Community participation played a big part in completing the project.
The area covered was 58.83 hectares, and the wildfire behaviour threat was reduced from extreme to moderate.
That threat reduction was a complete and major achievement in the community’s fuel management goals.
A total of 757 days were worked by 37 people: 565 days by 18 paid workers and 192 by 19 volunteers.
Project manager Garry Beaudry, a Registered Professional Forester, and community association president Anne Kohut gave credit to the many volunteers who helped whenever they could.
Although the actual community has some 99 properties, many of them are owned or leased by people from distant places who couldn’t participate.
Two things that made it work were volunteers, people who filled in, taking on multiple roles, and showing tenacity in working through mounds of paper work that needed to be done.
There was no model for the project from UBCM, and it had to be made up as it went along, Beaudry said.
“Good lessons were learned, and the government needed a model for this,” he said. When asked if he would do it again, he replied “yes.”
Administrative issues, such as the holdup in funds and difficulty in getting contractors to work in the remote area, would have to be addressed.
Kohut also said she would repeat the job, even though it involved a steep learning curve for her, a retired teacher and not in the industry.
“People were amazing in contributing the many volunteer hours; to me that was huge. Their help was consistent and much was very difficult,” she said.
The volunteers were awarded with special T-shirts bearing the motto “We got’er done — Fuel management Charlotte Lake” at the end of the gathering.