Scaling up wildfire collaboration: the role of Community Forests in British Columbia, Canada

Authors: Sarah Dickson-Hoyle*, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Lori Daniels, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Shannon Hagerman, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Land Use, Canada
Keywords: wildfire, risk, forest management, collaboration, community forests
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Worldwide, recent years have seen increasing socio-economic and ecological impacts resulting from high severity wildfires. In British Columbia, Canada, the 2017 and 2018 wildfires burned a record-breaking 2.5 million hectares, further highlighting the risks posed to communities and forest ecosystems. While the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the urgency of proactively addressing wildfire risk, many communities throughout BC remain unprepared and continue to face challenges in accessing the funding and expertise needed to effectively prepare for and respond to wildfires. At the same time, overarching forest planning and legislative frameworks, and the diversity of values on the forested land base, pose additional challenges for proactively addressing wildfire risk. In this context, community forests – an area-based forest tenure license granted to local municipalities and First Nations communities – have emerged as leaders in facilitating collaborative approaches to addressing wildfire risk. Our research aimed to better understand approaches to wildfire management undertaken by community forests, including factors that enable and pose barriers to collaboration. Interviews with forest managers highlighted factors including relationships, trust and community support, and funding and resource capacity as being key to successful collaboration. Overarching priorities for the future of wildfire management were framed around the following three themes: 1) refocusing management with a ‘fire lens’; 2) managing (with) fire for landscape resilience; and 3) scaling up collaboration. Finally, we highlight key recommendations that can support community forests in BC, and communities more broadly, proactively engage in wildfire management in multi-value and multi-tenure landscapes.

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