A string of wildfires in the Sea to Sky region has the federal
government clamouring to protect First Nations communities hit by the pine
Chuck Strahl, the minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and
MP for the Pemberton Valley, announced last week that the federal government
was adding $10.8 million to the Mountain Pine Beetle Program, which supports
efforts to reduce the risks of wildfire in First Nations communities.
The announcement came on Aug. 20, just days after
lightning-sparked fires ignited forests on Mount Moe, Mount Currie and
Whistler’s Nordic subdivision on Aug. 17 and 18.
Strahl said in a statement that the funding is meant to help
First Nations councils apply FireSmart principles help protect reserves against
fire damage. The money comes in addition to $5.1 million that the federal
government has put towards communities impacted by the mountain pine beetle
since 2004, according to a statement.
The money could come in handy for the Mount Currie band of the
Lil’wat Nation, which has lately expressed concern about dead trees near the
Xit’olacw townsite, the location of the Xit’olacw Community School and the
Mount Currie Health Centre.
The townsite also houses nearly half of Mount Currie’s reserve
population, according to Greg Bikadi, president of the Lil’wat Business
“When we look up above Xit’olacw in particular there’s some
mountain pine beetle bug kill up there,” he said.
Bikadi added that the threat of wildfire to Mount Currie is
“negligible,” but he admitted that it’s certainly there now that the pine
beetle has eaten away at trees surrounding the reserve.
“If you actually look at the mountains immediately, say to the
east of the reserves in particular, there is still some bug kill going on out
there,” he said. “A good part of the mature pine has been hit.”
Bikadi added that concern has mounted in the Lil’wat community
after the wildfires on Aug. 17 and 18.
“There’s always the consideration,” he said. “It's one of those
things, it's a natural disaster, hard to predict, as is the big earthquake
that's supposed to hit us. We need to mitigate risk as best we can.”
For its part, Mount Currie started a FireSmart program some
years back that involved clearing underbrush in areas that could be vulnerable
to wildfire, according to Bikadi.
“It wasn't necessarily a full FireSmart program but it was more
based on reducing that risk of wildfire within the community,” he said. “We
started in the core and then worked our way out to the perimeter, in particular
in that new townsite up in Xit'olacw.”