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Forest Act amendment to allow prescribed burning

Existing Forest and Wildfire acts need amending to allow fire as forest management tool
A firefighter at the Donnie Creek wildfire earlier this year. | BC Wildfire Service

Three B.C. acts, including the Forest Act and Wildfire Act, will be amended to allow for prescribed burning, the B.C. government announced today.

The governments plans to amend the Forest and Range Practices Act, the Forest Act, and the Wildfire Act to allow burning.

If the amendments pass, it will give prescribed burning “legal standing” as a forest management tool, the B.C. government says.

Prescribed burning was practised by First Nations in B.C. historically as a way of replenishing forests. Policymakers are increasingly coming around to the idea that prescribed burns could prevent, or reduce the severity of, wildfires in the future by reducing dead wood in forests.

"Protecting the natural resources of this land is vitally important, and those who damage these natural resources should face consequences," Lennard Joe, CEO of the B.C. First Nations Forestry Council, said in a B.C. government press release.

"Strengthening the enforcement of these laws will increase the public's trust by ensuring there are real penalties for those who break the rules. When we all properly act as responsible stewards of our environment, everyone benefits."

"Prescribed burning is the planned and controlled application of fire to a specific land area to reduce wildfire risk, and restore ecosystems that need fire to function," said Forests Minister Bruce Ralston.

"This change will make it easier for the province to work with First Nations as partners to return beneficial fire to the landscape as a way to keep communities safe and care for critical ecosystems. It's one part of a series of actions we're taking with First Nations to create more resilient future."

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