After reading about the proposed fireguard around Valemount, which I support, I am left with the feeling that the VCF proposal contains little else beyond a clearcut, which is a lot harder to support. Perhaps I’m wrong? I hope so.

Projects with continuous products long into the future seem undervalued in modern ‘forestry’, something that is in great contrast to how B.C.’s forests were managed for millennia by indigenous peoples. Some of this past management involved prescribed burning-as these areas cleared by burning produced a lot of food and medicinal plants. By mimicking nature, and emulating indigenous practices-not necessarily large scale burning since we have modern tools- we stand to gain much in potential for creating niche industries in the Robson Valley.

Huckleberries, for instance, are being commercially over-harvested in B.C.’s wild southern stands, to the detriment of subsistence gatherers whether human, or wild such as endangered grizzlies planning for the winter.

Hugulkultur, a European buried wood system which develops deep soils, holds a vast amount of winter moisture for growing plants and fungi, further reducing fire hazards and a much more appropriate use of logging slash than burning to atmospheric pollution with little gain. Plants best suited to wood gasification or bio-fuels could be grown, which, burned cleanly add to geothermal for a local sustainable energy potential. Bio-char, nutrient inoculating the bi-product of wood gasification, is a great potential agricultural amendment. Besides huckleberries, energy, and bio-char, many other non-timber forest products could be annually produced, particularly if deciduous trees were encouraged and managed. Oyster mushrooms, a prized edible, and many other medicinals, could be inoculated, harvested, and marketed, and that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface when it comes to wild local edible and medicinal products. Massive amounts of wood chips are being generated by arborists in this valley that could be used in such agro-forestry systems, to much gain in moisture and nutrient retention.

The one main problem that I have with community forestry, as it seems to exist in this province, is it’s seeming soul focus on lumber. There is a lot more to a forest than the lumber trees within it, and huge potential beyond a single sale and hopes of short term local conventional industry jobs.

If Valemount is planning to work its close forests – and has an idea of a resilient long term local economy – it must put some focus on systems which have many functions and many long term benefits, while also creating these firebreaks. A plan with anything less is a vast waste of potential.

Rob Mercereau
Dunster, B.C.