The regional district recently agreed to provide $5,000 to a non-profit society that has been studying the environmental, economic and social impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and figuring out what to do about them.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) is one of the nine regional districts that has membership in the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC).
“The Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition was formed originally to try to address the issues surrounding the mountain pine beetle,” explains Rhona Martin, SIBAC chair, “and since that time we have been transitioning to try and build support and capacity for rural communities.”
As a member, the RDCK contributes to SIBAC’s administrative costs, which allows the organization to pursue projects that help communities affected by the pine beetle epidemic with economic revitalization.
“The representatives from the different regional districts have promoted the work that SIBAC does within their areas and have tried to get people to apply for grant funding or project funding to support different types of projects that are taking place within the communities to try and improve the economic situation,” says Martin.
The pine beetle affects not only the forestry industry, but also impacts tourism, as dead trees are not only less photogenic, but faster burning. The loss of pines can also lead to flooding.
“As trees have died off in some areas — and there are areas in SIBAC that have been hit much harder that other areas — but as the trees have died off there’s not the root system in place to hold the water, so that’s increased flooding and run off issues,” explains Martin.
SIBAC supports learning opportunities for communities. For instance, it sponsored a water workshop in Kelowna a number of years ago, and in the spring of 2015 held a workshop in Salmon Arm on rural economic development and building rural capacity.
SIBAC also advocates to the province on behalf of communities. Among other things, they’ve asked the government to make sure that communities have the means to deal with beetle kill and fuel management, and that an assessment is done to determine which consumptive use water sheds are at greatest risk of flooding.
Martin says that having members help cover the administrative costs of running SIBAC gives the organization more leverage when applying to the province for funding.
“Not every year have we asked for funding, but this year we decided once again that we would ask for funding,” says Martin, “because when we have gone to the provincial government to ask for funding, we have said our membership is doing its best to cover the cost of administration.”