This project has been created to assess the effectiveness of prescribed fires in an effort to improve and expand the winter range habitats for ungulates in the Carpenter drainage area.
The first stage of the project was to establish a proposed study area, consult relevant stakeholders to identify any concerns regarding the proposed prescribed fire and develop a proposed plan for the implementation of the burning.
The Carpenter Lake and surrounding area is essential Winter range habitat for a variety of different species including Mule Deer, California Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat. The ungulates are supported by the dry open ecosystem that covers the steep south slopes above the lake during late Winter and early Spring.
This Winter range habitat has been identified as a limiting factor in deer and sheep populations. Greater foraging opportunities for local ungulates are attributed to regular fire occurrence as a result of varied densities and ages of vegetation.
A study performed in 1977 indicated that the Carpenter Lake area had a mean fire interval as low as 17.33 years, however due to aggressive fire suppression policies, this fire interval has dramatically increased over the ensuing years.
In order to expand foraging possibilities for the ungulates in these areas, prescribed fires are recommended.
Methods and Material / Study Area
After extensive reviews including topography, fuel types, natural barriers and conflicting resources, a study area was established in the Carpenter Lake area covering 3000 hectares of suitable land. The study area covered all land from the reservoir to the height of land (Shulaps Range). Within the selected study area, more specific areas were then established using factors such as practical burn size, suitable forest types, natural boundaries and proximity to other values.
Four complete fire plans were created for the sites within the general study area that were determined to be the highest priority.
A combination of helicopter ignition utilizing an Aerial Ignition Device and hand ignition systems was identified as the most effective burn method.
No results were included in the report regarding the effectiveness of a prescribed fire in the Carpenter Lake area as, at the time of publication the established plans had not yet been implemented.
Input from direct stakeholder affected by the selected fire area was collected as part of the projects’ initial stages. Input was sought from a wide range of stakeholders with support being received from the Ministry of Forestry (Lillooet District), Ainsworth Timber Co, Lillooet Livestock Association, Wild Sheep Society of BC, Ministry of Env. Lands and Park, Kamloops Forest Region and the BC Hydro Department.
Predominantly positive feedback was received, however select stake holders also put forward concerns and suggested further areas of development were required.
The following issues were identified after thorough consultation with the interested stakeholders:
- Concerns regarding the prescribed fires impacting on neighbouring Lumber companies (who feared damage to their leaves, planted seedlings or timber)
- The need to establish concrete monitoring and reporting procedures to record the whether planned objectives were reached.
- The need for further consultation with the Seton Lake Indian Band to ensure a consensus regarding their views of prescribed fires.
Specific suggestions were put forward by the Ministry of Forestry including, needing a larger body of sound scientific research to support the plan, having established clear objectives and prescriptions, establishing responsibility for reforestation obligations in the event of a fire escape, performing a cost/benefit analysis on the impact on the timber supply and providing more consideration for recreation and visual values.
Consultation with the relevant stakeholders identified a number of further steps required. Accurate collection of weather data for the north side of Carpenter Lake is necessary to assist in the application of the proposed plans. Addressing the land management concerns raised at a stakeholder level is also required alongside the collection of the appropriate materials (AID Machines, ignition devices, helicopters) and the corresponding staff (trained fire crews). Most importantly plan approval is required by the relevant agencies and stakeholders (Ministry of Forestry, Ainsworth Timber Co, Seton Lake Band) prior to any prescribed fire plans being implemented.
In order to improve the ungulate habitat on the north side of Carpenter Lake, prescribed fires implemented in a precise and properly planned manner are recommended. Primarily positive support for such a plan is present within the main stakeholders groups affected by the proposed plan. In order to transition the plan from planning to implementation stages, further work is required to address the small number of concerns that were identified in the consultation stages.