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CFX 2020 Speaker Series | Gord Chipman

 

Gord:  I'm Gord Chipman I'm a Registered Professional Forester and for the last 10 years now I've been working for the Esketemc people managing their forest tenures for them.

Barry: Can you describe for people where Esketemc is? 

Gord:  The Esketemc - the people of the white hills are adjacent to the Fraser River. They’re on the east side of the Fraser River about 50 km south of Williams Lake. Esketemc is one of the many Bands within the Secwepemc. 

Barry :Our conference CFFX2020 is kind of really in the heart of Secwépemcúl’ecw in Kamloops. And Esketemc would be one of the more northern communities of the
of the nation right?

Gord: They’re one of the northern bands and they're also very cultural and they believe
they carry along a lot of the traditions within the Secwépemc people and yeah it's a great place to work it's a great environment here.

I manage a company for them called Alkali Resource Management. We employ about 120 people a year here and we do an awful lot of forest management, a lot of tree spacing, and  a lot of fire fighting.

We do a lot of prescribed burning here. We harvest a lot of trees here and make small patches in the forest a lot of select logging. The ecosystem that we manage here is a dry belt Douglas-fir ecosystem and the predominant ecosystem defining process is fires.

What’s really unique about this ecosystem is that forest fires really changed the ecosystem dramatically.  We're noticing it now with these real hot dry summers where
there's a lot of drought and we see a lot of trees dying during the drought.

One of the things we notice with our forests are the most limiting factor is moisture it's not it's not nutrients. It's not sunlight it's so not necessarily growing degree days it's moisture that is the most limiting factor for tree growth. That gets to be a real big issue when you have forests that are too stocked too thick and there's too many trees growing.

Douglas-fir is a very interesting species because even if it hasn't had any water it will live kind of like a cactus it'll just become dormant and sit there and it won’t die right away.  It'll take many years until maybe some insects come along and kills it and then
the forest will slowly thin itself out but the natural way the forest has always thinned itself out is fire.

That's it that's the big the biggest issue that we deal with here in the Secwépemcúl’ecw lands of the Esketemc. For the last five years now we've been trying to get fire back on the landscape and we've been doing that especially in some of our rare endangered ecosystems like the grassland forest interface areas. That's where we try to get fire back on the land it's been challenging.

We're starting to get some more support from the provincial government to do it but it's been a challenge that it hasn't always been that way.

When the cumulative effects then of removing fire from the ecosystem there's a lot of
different factors when you're mentioning you get overstocked forest that are drawing more water than the ecosystem naturally would've had. We see that in the forest invading the grasslands and trying to overtake them.

It seems like once we started fighting fires we allowed fuels to really build up and then that put people at a lot more risk didn’t it? We really need to change the way we manage the forest and cumulative impacts of the forest are real we're seeing it. We’re seeing lakes that are drying up and we're seeing new pests come onto the land that we've never seen before.

We have a tussock moth outbreak happening within 5 km of our community. We’ve never seen that insect here before ever. The closest I've ever seen it was in Cache Creek and apparently it was in Lillooet a few years ago but it just showed up on our doorstep in July. We first noticed it in 2019 and it is growing so fast.

Barry: What do you think is causing that? Did you have a sense of
what’s driving it into your area?

Gord: I think it's because of the absence of fire we have a lot of forests that are
sick and weak and that they can't they can't fight off the bugs or there's there's continuous trees for them to travel on. It's the same with the budworm. We've
got huge budworm populations in our area now and they've been around for about 10 years but they just keep coming wave after wave of budworms. 

Douglas fir beetle populations too, or they go in waves as well. Normally Douglas-fir
beetle would last for about five years and then naturally die out.  Right now we're on a  run with a Douglas fir Beatle that has been going hard and steady for 10 years

There's a number of different things going on in our forest and I think it all links back to the fact of absence of fire. 

Barry : When we bring people together to discuss and share this stuff hopefully what's going to happen out of that is we're going to start to unlock some of this prosperity.
We're going to get past some of these conflicts and we're going to become partners working towards a positive future rather than embroiled in conflict and going nowhere.

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