BCIT faculty advocates for a holistic approach to wildfire management

In 2023, the Province of British Columbia (BC) had over 2.84 million hectares of forest and land burned, tens of thousands of evacuees, and hundreds of homes lost or damaged due to wildfires. The Government of BC called the 2023 wildfire season as “the most destructive in BC history”.

In a recent talk at TEDx Abbotsford, BCIT alumnus and Forest and Natural Areas Management faculty Justin Perry discussed the historical suppression of wildfires and its consequences in heightening fire risks. In his talk, Justin advocated for an alternative strategy to preventing wildfires.

WATCH: Justin Perry, faculty, BCIT Forest and Natural Areas Management, on TEDx Abbostford.

As a member of Métis Nation BC and a lifetime resident of Squamish, the unceded territory of the Squamish Nation, Justin shares his understanding of First Nations practices that have been used by caretakers of the land for centuries. Instead of solely suppressing fires, Justin argues for a more holistic approach, including conducting “controlled burning” which can help mitigate uncontrolled wildfires in the long-term.

“Fires are a natural part of the ecosystem,” Justin says. “Without fire, the forest becomes dense. Combine this with climate change, we have forests that are too dense, dried out, and ready to burn.”

By proactively treating forests through the removal of factors such as ladder fuel and small and unhealthy trees, these forests will become more resilient to uncontrolled fires.

Why is forest management important?

Management of forest resources in today’s world means managing forest ecosystems. It involves assessing the health of forests with respect to insects and disease, planning revegetation strategies, and using technology to map and track forest inventories. But it is also about considering the interests of other resource users, while ensuring future generations can equally benefit from our forests. Forest ecosystems provide major economic, social, and ecological benefits to communities throughout British Columbia. Almost 60% of the land in British Columbia is forested – stewardship of these lands is no small feat.

What is natural areas management?

With increasing urbanization, forests and natural areas in and around communities are growing in importance. While people value natural areas for recreation, aesthetics, and psychological wellbeing, natural areas also provide important ecological services, like habitat for wildlife, promotion of biodiversity, storm-water flood mitigation, and heat wave moderation.

Learn more about the two-year diploma program in Forest and Natural Areas Management.

Note to media: If you are interested in interviewing Justin Perry about holistic approach to wildfire management, please contact Amy Chen.

(Photo credit: Dale Klippenstein)

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