Wildfire Risk Reduction at Watch Lake Land

Ron Eden standing on his property in the Cariboo Region of BC

In 2022 Farmland Advantage (FLA) expanded to begin a wildfire risk reduction pilot project, funded by the Government of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests. This pilot is focused on reducing wildfire risk and increasing community resiliency to wildfires across British Columbia. Read more about the pilot here.

Five sites totaling 380 hectares were identified and selected for treatment. Each site was selected for its potential to mitigate the risk of wildfire in the immediate and adjacent areas. Three of the five sites are in the Cariboo region, one of which is the ranch where Ron Eden raises cattle near Watch Lake and 100 Mile House.

Being able to reduce fire risk around communities while at the same time improving the management and production of adjacent agricultural property is a plus for both.

Ron Eden, Owner, Watch Lake Land

Ron originally became involved in Farmland Advantage in 2021 when he agreed to participate in a grasslands-focused project, funded by the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change. The project supported fence installation and maintenance on the property to enhance pasture management. Grazing herbivores like Ron’s cattle improve grassland biodiversity, contribute to enhanced carbon sequestration, and reduce fuel that fires use to burn. However, if they graze in one area too long it can deplete the land. Installing fences in strategic locations and implementing beneficial management practices allows for better management of the grazing pressure, leading to a healthier grassland.

Piled material in a large field.

In 2022, Ron agreed to participate in the Wildfire Risk Reduction Pilot project. He is no stranger to wildfire, in 2017 the Elephant Hill fire swept through parts of his ranch. Together Ron and his friend Gus Horn spent weeks within the evacuation zone locating, moving, and securing cattle to save them from wildfire. The ranchers knew to seek out the watering holes where cattle like to hang out, and were able to move them into temporary corrals, before being transported out of the fire zone by truck. The ranchers were allowed past the checkpoints thanks to help from the BC Cattlemen’s Association, who worked with government officials to ensure the ranchers had permits to access the land during the crisis.

Devastating fires such as this disrupt supply chains, cause evacuations, and can impact communities and agriculture for years following the event. IAF, through FLA’s Wildfire Risk Reduction Pilot project is working with farmers and ranchers to implement Wildfire Risk Reduction techniques on private lands to reduce wildfire risk and increase community resiliency.

With the way climate change is going and yearly extreme forest fires becoming the norm, it is good to have coordination between local agriculture producers and adjacent communities in creating fuel reduction treatments in buffer zones.

Ron Eden, Owner, Watch Lake Land

In the fall of 2022, an FLA Advisor and a Registered Professional Forester visited the property to develop a site management plan aimed at mitigating wildfire risks. This management plan combined a wildfire risk reduction treatment from the forestry perspective which focused on forest fuels, with a targeted grazing prescription which focused on fine fuels such as grasses. Throughout the summer and into the fall, the tree stand was thinned, limbed, and pruned to remove growth with a diameter of less than seven centimeters. The extracted materials will be carefully piled and burned to prevent their future use as wildfire fuel.

Ron will maintain the area through targeted grazing practices, which involves using permanent and mobile fencing, combined with a solar water development, to have livestock graze concentrated areas, at specific times, to reduce the amount of fuel and reduce wildfire risk.

Lower branches and shrubbery pruned from treatment area.

More About Farmland Advantage

Farmland Advantage is working with farmers across BC. In the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region, Farmland Advantage has ongoing projects located in the Cariboo Regional District. Farmland Advantage partners with landowners, municipalities, and local organizations to undertake restoration work on farm sites.

Farmland Advantage is an IAF Program. For the 2023/24 Fiscal year, Farmland Advantage gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, and the Ministry of Forests.

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