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Nelson area forest thinning underway to reduce wildfire risk

A forestry project is underway south of Nelson in a bid to cut down the risk of wildfires while protecting the city and its drinking water source.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay and lumber company Kalesnikoff are working on thinning out the forest near Selous Creek along the Great Northern Rail Trail.

The project took five years of planning and the cutting permits for the 65-70 hectares (160-173 acres) of Crown land were approved last year.

Project manager John Cathro says the work will involve keeping the big, healthy fire-resistant Douglas fir and larch while cutting out the smaller cedar and hemlock as well as removing brush.

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“And then we’re going to work with BC Wildfire Service to do a prescribed burn up there which means reintroducing fire to the landscape and thereby retaining forest but reducing the amount of hazardous fuels,” Cathro explained.

The work is expected to take about eight weeks – until the middle of May – but the burn won’t happen until the fall subject to how the wildfire season plays out and the weather. Everything should be done by mid-November.

While the thinning is happening, rail trail users can expect to see workers on site who will provide detours around the hazardous areas. It will be fully accessible on the weekends, the RDCK says.

Cathro says people will be able to see some of their cutting work. “It won’t look like a clear-cut. It will look like an area where the outside boundaries are very irregular and there’s a lot of retained trees in between.”

As for the trails, Cathro says the iconic The Vein trail has a healthy buffer of vegetation. It and the Great Northern Rail Trail will be getting some selected cutting by hand.

Cathro adds that it’s a comprehensive project, since the RDCK, BC Parks and the City of Nelson are doing similar work around Five Mile Creek within West Arm Provincial Park and the city is also doing work within city limits.

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