The 2017 and 2018 wildfires ravaged hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests throughout British Columbia’s Cariboo Region. What many people do not consider is that the area burned included many other types of ecosystems besides coniferous forests, each with their own unique assemblages of plant and animal species.
Photo by Lesly Derksen, Unsplash
In 2020, Zanzibar Holdings Ltd., initiated a collaborative project between the South Dakelh Nation Alliance (SDNA) and Forest Enhancement Society of BC’s Forest Carbon Initiative Program. The project was intended to identify management opportunities for culturally significant non-timber values within wildfire affected areas near Quesnel, B.C.
The values included within the report included ethnobotanical species, wildlife, fish, birds, as well as the unique ecosystems that support them. The resulting report provided guidance and management recommendations for the restoration of riparian ecosystems, such as wetlands and areas near the periphery of lakes and streams. Because they’re wetter, these ecosystems are extremely diverse with many culturally valuable berry and medicinal plants and provide important habitat for a wide array of wildlife.
These ecosystems are particularly important for moose, which depend on them and the trees and plant communities they support to provide water, food, and cover from natural predators. The deciduous and conifer trees that grow in these ecosystems provide cover and moose eat the leaves, stems, buds, and bark. During the winter, fallen trembling aspen and black cottonwood leaves provide their principal diet.
Working under the recommendations and guidance from the SDNA report, Zanzibar planted 10,000 black cottonwood trees in the fall of 2021 within an area identified in the report. The trees have been planted using special shelters and a 100% natural and organic herbivore repellent. Protection will be critical to the successful establishment of the trees for the first couple of years while they are especially vulnerable to moose and other animals. We will also be monitoring the establishment of the trees for the next 2 years.
More holistic silviculture prescriptions that integrate traditional First Nations cultural values, such as ecosystem diversity and wildlife habitat, result in healthier ecosystems and a more biodiverse and resilient natural landscape. It is our hope that these trees are only the first step along the path to restoring the diverse ecosystems impacted by the fires of 2017 and 2018.