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FireSmart BC

The BC First Nations Forestry Council (”Forestry Council”) assisted the Province in hosting a series of engagement sessions with First Nations communities to gather insights and feedback to inform the development of a FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide.

The Forestry Council acknowledges that Indigenous peoples have a long-standing cultural relationship with fire, and the role it plays in Indigenous stewardship, wildfire mitigation, and prevention. We also recognize the detrimental effects of provincial policies and practices (such as fire suppression) that prevented Indigenous peoples from using controlled burns in the management of forest and rangeland, and how this has contributed to the increased fuel loads and magnitudes of wildfires.

We are happy to see change and recognition in the use of Indigenous traditional knowledge in dealing with wildfires, and that many Nations are currently in the process of revitalizing Indigenous fire management and incorporating traditional knowledge in forest management practices.

FireSmart is guided in BC by the BC FireSmart Committee. To reflect commitments the province has made to the implementation of UNDRIP, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRORD) is looking to engage with First Nations in acknowledgement of the unique expertise and insights Indigenous communities can bring to the development of a FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide to help protect lives and communities with tools to increase resiliency to wildfire.

Summary of Recommendations

The following recommendations are based on what we heard during discussions, and connect back to the themed summary above. While this is not presented as an exhaustive list, these recommendations are grounded in the discussion at the engagement sessions and represent opportunities to incorporate First Nations’ feedback in writing the Guide.

  1. The Guide should include a holistic concept of fire that frames it as not just a bad thing, but also speaks to how fire is tied to ecosystem resilience. The Guide should acknowledge that wildfire can impact and enhance cultural survival, and the ability to access traditional and cultural resources.
  2. The Guide should acknowledge the impact of climate change on wildfire, and the Guide as a tool for climate adaptation.
  3. The Guide should acknowledge the relationship between environment and communities, and the impact of wildfire on members of those communities.
  4. FireSmart is a new term, connected to modern practices. The Guide should include a holistic definition/ description of “fire smart” that includes reference to using fire as a tool to mitigate fuels. Prevention plays a major role in being fire smart.
  5. The Guide should recognize the importance of traditional/cultural burning as a tool for fire mitigation and management of healthy/resilient ecosystems.
  6. FireSmart BC should consider the use of fire in forest management and the role of Indigenous Firekeepers in wildfire mitigation.
  7. The Guide should include a Worksheet for communities to identify culturally important plants specific to their community in a way that respects community ownership of local knowledge and practices (p. 16)
  8. The Guide should provide regionally specific information about what plants can be used in FireSmart landscaping.
  9. The Guide should identify controlled burning as an important tool in the toolbox for fire mitigation.
  10. The Guide should be made accessible through both online and offline channels, with an emphasis on education and tools (such as video) that can help communities support information sharing and further research and information (i.e. through hyperlinks).
  11. The Guide should acknowledge the need to use fire mitigation on and off reserve and around communities. By managing forests around communities, you are protecting communities.
  12. The Guide should include an updated list of funding and training opportunities connected to FireSmart activities.
  13. The Guide should include tips on how to care and maintain FireSmart vegetation, including best practices and the impacts of invasive species (and how to control them).
  14. The Guide should be organized by region.
  15. The Guide should acknowledge the linkages between fire smart planning and broader land use planning activities.
  16. The Guide should acknowledge the relationship between wildfire mitigation and food security.
  17. Resources (and information on how to access them) are needed to ensure that First Nations have the capacity to implement FireSmart and wildfire mitigation activities.

Commitment of the BC FireSmart Committee regarding this project and engagement:

The following points are a commitment from the BC FireSmart Committee regarding the development of the FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide project in relation to First Nations engagement.

The BC FireSmart Committee will ensure that:

  • The long-term nature of the engagement is outlined;
  • The FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide is a part of ongoing relationship-building to increase respect for, and effective consideration of Indigenous knowledge in land management practices and decision making;
  • A background and summary of the engagement process and rationale for engagement will be provided, including the intended uses for knowledge shared during engagement;
  • A respectful space is provided for sharing information, listening, and conversation;
  • Information is related at the most local level as possible; and,
  • Documentation is kept of engagement activities, including what was heard and how this will shape the FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide