Crews will be in Lost Lake Park this month to complete a tree thinning project that got started three years ago.
The goal of the project is to reduce the fire hazard, while allowing the restoration of natural undergrowth that supports native wildlife.
In an old-growth natural forest, there are typically between 300 and 400 big trees per hectare, allowing smaller trees and bushes to grow under the canopy. In managed forests, the number of replanted trees is generally between 800 and 900 per hectare, with humans doing the work to keep competing trees down.
After extensive logging in the early 1960s the Lost Lake Area has been allowed to recover naturally, with the result that there are between 4,000 and 5,000 stems in some areas. One area near Spruce Grove had a density of 14,000 trees in a single hectare. As a result a fire would burn extremely hot and travel too quickly to contain. The density also chokes out natural vegetation that native wildlife requires for food and shelter.
Municipal crews, with direction from a forest ecologist, will cut down selected trees and drag them out of the forest to prevent fuel from building up that could feed a potential fire. The trees left behind will improve biodiversity, allow for various types of underbrush, and provide windfalls to protect the forest during storms.
The first two years of the programming have been so successful that the municipality has planned to continue the project over the next few years, and has applied for funding through the Union of B.C. Municipalities to help cover the costs of thinning projects and identify other sites in need of work.
The thinning project goes back to 2005 when the Whistler Fire Rescue Service completed a wildfire risk assessment and community wildfire protection plan.
As well as prescribing thinning and the removal of fuel for parkland, the plan made 22 other recommendations, including the use of software to perform hazard assessments on individual properties within the community. That database is in the process of being completed to recognize at risk neighbourhoods and homes, and suggest remedies to homeowners and strata councils.