Fuel break proposed in Selous Creek forest could spawn new agroecology industry in Nelson: Cordeiro
Talk about finding a silver lining.
What could be perceived as a negative — having to clear trees from the mountainside above Nelson in the Selous Creek watershed — might very well become a positive if the seed of the Selous in Bloom project germinates.
Called an agroecology approach to climate change adaptation, the project aims to put land laid bare — in the process of clearing the beetle-infested Douglas fir and wildfire mitigation — to agricultural use.
Proposed by Kalesnikoff Forestry Products forest development manager Gerald Cordeiro, agroecology “is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems and practices,” meaning there is a lot of benefit back to society in marrying up natural ecosystems with artificial or engineered ecosystems.
“It’s a bit of a science, it’s a bit of an art, there is a lot of experimentation going on,” he said. “I really think the West Kootenay is a very forgiving place to grow things. How come we are not (producing) things we are paying a lot of money for? They could be grown right in our backyard.”
The underlying intent of the project is food security, Cordeiro noted when he presented his idea to city council recently, with an emphasis on turning local land capable of producing food — but not currently doing so — into production.
And that forest is the land that contains Selous Creek and its watershed located just above the city.
There is a proposal afoot for a large-scale Selous Creek fuel break — a climate change mitigation strategy adjacent to the city — trimming out the fuel that a wildfire could utilize.
It’s a mixed forest above the city, Cordeiro explained, with much cedar and hemlock — not considered a very fire resistant species and, in fact, is highly flammable.
“So the cedar and the hemlock get thinned out considerably in this proposal, clearing to the greatest extent that we can, but not the Douglas fir, larch and ponderosa pine,” he said, noting the proposal would retain as much of the city “view-scape” as possible.
That being said, climate change is coming, Cordeiro explained, and the fire hazard is real so some action will be needed. That’s where the agroecology project fits in, he added.
“We have to look at the forest in a forward thinking way. There is an expectation that we would have to go back and retreat these areas in 15 to 20 years,” he said.
“Do we want to just log the trees we left for aesthetic value? Not really.
Government funding for re-treatment might not be available at that time. The taxpayers could pay directly the next time (it is logged).
“The idea is we could maintain these areas in a less flammable state while getting some other benefits back to society, including food security and a beautiful place to enjoy.”
He envisioned some sort of permaculture food forest in the fuel break. FLNRO Ministry officials have already given support in principle for the project, opening up an opportunity to operate on Crown land.
There was no support being asked of the city at the time, but Cordeiro invited the city to support the project in any way it saw fit.
Mayor John Dooley immediately saw the merit in the plan.
“This has the opportunity to provide some significant employment,” he said.
There is the potential to bring diverse interests and skills together with Selous in Bloom, noted Cordeiro.
“This is as much a social experiment as it is a scientific experiment,” he said.
Interest has been expressed by West Kootenay Permaculture Co-op, FLNRO researchers, Selkirk College, West Kootenay EcoSociety and Kalesnikoff Forest Products.