A partnership between the Penticton Indian Band, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Okanagan Region of the B.C. Wildlife Federation will work together for habitat and cultural enhancement in the Garnett Valley area north of Summerland.
The primary objective of the partnership is to treat forest ingrowth and habitat degradation in the area.
A secondary objective is to use traditional practices and ecosystem and fire science in harmony.
The partnership has received $150,000 for its efforts.
The funding, from the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., is part of more than $2.74 million given to 23 projects around the province.
Cailyn Glasser, an ecologist with the Penticton Indian Band, said the band and other organizations spent a year and a half working on the agreement.
“I think it’s important that we pull this off together,” she said.
When work begins next year, controlled burning will be done in an area of 89 to 90 hectares.
Then, in future years, forest management will be done in 100-hectare parcels.
She would like to see the partnership model adapted and used in other parts of the province as well.
Richard Armstrong, a knowledge keeper with the Penticton Indian Band, said the traditional Aboriginal forest management practices would reduce the risk of large-scale wildfires in the region.
“When they take care of the forest the way it’s supposed to be taken care of, there won’t be things like the Okanagan Mountain Fire,” he said, referring to the massive 2003 wildfire on the east side of Okanagan Lake, south of Kelowna.
Armstrong said traditionally Aboriginal people would have controlled burns every 25 to 27 years to maintain the forests. When the province took over, Armstrong said the consistency was gone and controlled fires were done at the wrong times of the year.
Trevor Lees, a forest protection technician with the Penticton Fire Zone, said the restoration efforts will help to minimize fire risks in the future.
Bryn White, program manager with the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program, said the Garnett Valley area north of Summerland is a significant habitat.
“This place is so important as a winter range for wildlife,” she said.
Thinning, burning and maintaining the forest will help wildlife in the area, she added.
Dave Carleton of the Summerland Sportsmen’s Association said the efforts are expected to help wildlife in the area.
“Were trying to get the mule deer back here,” he said.
In addition to the forest and habitat benefits, the program is intended as a platform for relationship building between the province, the Penticton Indian Band, the Summerland and Peachland Sportsmen’s Associations and the B.C. Wildlife Federation
The work in the Garnett Valley area is expected to begin in spring. In the future, work will be done throughout the region to maintain safe and healthy habitats.