Back in April, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell told us "no one" had told him the Union of British Columbia Municipalities recent restrictions on fuel treatment funding would be a "constraint on their ability to provide appropriate (forest fire) protection." But, last week, his hometown raised concerns about those restrictions.
As we earlier reported, the union has put a $500,000 annual cap on the amount of provincial funding it provides for fuel treatment projects - which involve the thinning or clearing of wooded areas that, if left alone, could increase the chances or severity of a wildfire. It's also restricting those dollars to "areas with significant wildfire threat ratings," citing the fact "there is still much to be done, and the funding remaining under the initiative is limited."
But, as first reported by Opinion 250, last week Prince George's environment manager Dan Adamson submitted a report to city councillors stating the "$500,00 funding cap is about a third to half of what the City has been drawing from the UBCM program."
He also noted the "one year time limit may be an issue" and the "reduced priority for treating moderate fire hazard rated areas may mean a number of those sites will not be treated. Many of these sites will become high to very high rated wildfire hazard sites in the future when the deed pine begin falling down."
In an interview on Public Eye Radio, councillor Brian Skakun expressed concern about those changes, reporting he and his colleagues have "directed the mayor to write and contact Minister Pat Bell immediately and contact UBCM to just let them know some of the unique challenges we have."
"And I know Minister Pat Bell's portfolio is quite large. But he had to have known at some point that this funding was going to be reduced far before the UBCM or the municipalities did," he continued.
"And Minister Bell - who actually spent a number of years in the logging industry - would have known this was going to be an issue months and months before it was made public. So I would have hoped he would have dug in and said, 'No. This funding has to stay the same or possibly increase because of the mountain pine beetle.'"