Green Issues -- Forests

Boreal Forest region of North America



Fires a remedy for 'geriatric Sask. forests, official says

Many areas deemed long overdue for renewal  By James Parker

of The StarPhoenix

It will be little comfort to Finance Minister Eric Clines expense forecasts or cottage owners who have seen their properties go up in smoke, but a senior official with the Environment Department says Saskatchewan forests must burn.

Al Wilicocks, director of the environment 'department forest ecosystems branch, said recently the province has a "geriatric" forest which is overdue to be swept clean by fire.

"We have so much overmature forest right now," said Willcocks, who has overseen a controversial expansion of the provinces forestry industry.

"Look at Nisbet Forest (near Prince Albert). That should have burned 30 years ago. Ive been teffing people its going to burn. It was great we could protect the homes with all the hard work we did. But ecologically, it (the fire) is great news."

Wilicocks was referring to the Crutwell fire, a blaze which scorched more than 9,000 hectares just west of Prince Albert in June. City residents watched with alarm as firefighters struggled to extinguish the menacing flames. The fire is still being mopped up.

The Crutwell fire underscored the extensive damage caused by forest fires this year.

fires have burned 852,000 hectares of forest in the province, with most of the damage done in areas where the government responds immediately to fires (the full response zone).

That compares to a 10-year average at this date of 530 fires and 346,000 hectares destroyed. Last year at this time, 609 fires had burned 171,000 hectares.

Saskatchewan has a 12-million hectare commercial forest and 35.5-million hectares of forest in total, more than half the province.

From April 1 to July 31, the provincial government spent $78 million fighting fires year, compared to $51 million during all of last year. (During the same three-month period, Alberta spent $207 million fighting fires).

Forest fires have destroyed cottages at Turtle Lake, forced the evacuation of several northern communities and left some rural municipalities on the hook for millions of dollars in costs, most of which has been forgiven by the provincial government.

Willcocks conceded the costs involved in fighting fires are disastrous and the danger they pose to people and property is serious. He suggested the danger could be eased if forestry production was boosted even more.

"When lightning starts and you have high trees, what happens is you have alot of dead material. You have kindling to start the fire. Those fires up at Dore (Lake), you couldnt even find the fire because the smoke was hanging there for 500 acres. We brought in helicopters and we almost crashed one because you couldnt see the fire

Wilicocks said he almost weeps when he travels on the Hanson Lake Road in northeastern Saskatchewan and views forests which were destroyed by fire in 1995.

"Its so beautiful now. Its a young forest. I like young trees. When I cut a forest down, I think about the young trees Im going to create

Mark Johnston, a scientist at the Saskatchewan Research Council, said the boreal forest has evolved over thousands of years with fire as part of its ecology. He said all species of trees are capable of coping with periodic fire and regenerating quickly after a fire.

"If you look at the age-class distribution of the forest in Saskatchewan, you see that the majority of the forest is reaching a point that under the long-term average it would probably have a fire. In that sense, the forest is old. Whether its too old or not depends upon what youre seeking in terms of the value of the forest?

Johnston said Willcocks expresses the "fibre production" view of forests.

"That view is that a younger, rapidly-growing forest is desirable from a fibre production point of view. Thats not necessarily the case from other perspectives. The forest has lots of different values for different people. It depends upon who you are as to whether that old forest is a bad thing."

Wednesday, August 7, 2022

The Forest Fringe Citizens's Coalition was invited to consider the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada's Boreal Forest Standards document and provide reaction. The Saskatchewan Eco-Network invited us to meet with Marc Thibault of the Forest Stewardship Council to learn about the public input process.

FFCC members were very interested and acquired the large draft document and studied it, and then later met with a representative of the Saskatchewan Eco Network (SEN) to discuss our reactions. Gerald Regnitter was asked to draft a response document which then was sent out to other SEN member groups for consideration and ratification.

We argue for a single certification process for all public forest lands in Saskatchewan and recommend FSC as the certifiction agent.

The document that Gerald prepared and sent to FSC and to Saskatchewan political leaders can be read by clicking here.

A rich source of documentation about forests and forest ecology and the forest certification process can be found at the FSC Documentation link:



Manitoba has more of Canada's intact forest than any other province outside Ontario and Quebec, according to a new map released by Global Forest Watch (GFW) Canada that highlights how little of the forest is protected from development. The map shows a broad band of forest stretching across northern Canada that is not yet severely fragmented by roads, power lines and clear cuts.

About 60 per cent of Canada's forests remain essentially untouched by industrial activity. The map, based on satellite imaging, is the most comprehensive survey ever done of Canada's forest resources, said Peter Lee, national co-ordinator of GFW Canada. "We've been able to show for the first time, how much of our large intact forests are left," Lee said in a recent interview.

Intact forest is especially important for roaming wildlife and tourists seeking a wilderness experience.
For the purposes of the study, an intact forest landscape is defined as an area of 50,000 hectares, at least 10 kilometres wide, including both treed and treeless areas. "Canada is one of the last countries to have such large intact forests left," said Don Sullivan, executive director of BFN which was a partner in the project. "We have an obligation to look at further protection."

More than half of Canada's large, intact forest landscapes are in first nation treaty areas. "Most forestry maps highlight marketable timber, but this project looks at other values," he said. The next step will involve adding layers to the map to show how much of the forest has already been allocated for future development like mining, hydroelectric dams and power lines.
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View Interactive maps at:
SOURCE: Helen Fallding ,

View from Prince Albert, Crutwell / Nisbett fire summer 2002. Photo Dan Kerslake of CBC

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