Cheakamus Lake forest service road closure in effect until spring 2021
October 29, 2020: Whistler, B.C. – Wildfire fuel thinning work will resume in the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) as early as late November and through spring 2021, marking the third and final phase of the joint Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and CCF project that began in 2018. Twenty hectares will be treated this winter in the Whistler Interpretive Forest section of the Cheakamus Community Forest to reduce the risk of wildfire spread between the forest, Whistler Mountain and nearby neighborhoods.
This area was identified as a priority for fuel treatment in the Wildfire Program 2019-2027 Report, part of the RMOW’s Wildfire Protection Strategy to reduce the threat of wildfires in Whistler.
“Fuel thinning work is critical to protecting Whistler from wildfires,” said Mayor Jack Crompton. “Thank you to the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation for their continued partnership on the Cheakamus Community Forest, making wildfire prevention projects in priority areas like this possible.”
Fuel thinning requires the operation of heavy machinery and tree falling, creating a risk to crew and public safety. The East Side Main Forest Service Road (known as Cheakamus Lake Road) will be closed throughout the winter to all public user groups until the project is completed. Farside trail and AM/PM trail may require intermittent, temporary closures while work is completed on adjacent trails. Please obey trail signs and directions of crews. MacLaurin’s Crossing bridge and trails beyond it will remain open. The RMOW and CCF are working with the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) to identify trail impacts, and with BC Parks to reduce disruption to the Cheakamus Lake Trail parking lot.
Affected trails will be rebuilt to their former state before they reopen to the public. If the project is not completed by spring, remaining work will be suspended until fall 2021 once the seasonal wildfire hazard drops to low and summer recreation use decreases. Due to its proximity to the Cheakamus Crossing neighborhood, this work has been scheduled for the winter months when road access and trail use by hikers and bikers decreases to reduce inconvenience to the public.
A Fuel Management Prescription for this project identifies the recommended treatment activities to reduce the risk of wildfire spread in the area. Wildfire fuel removal will focus on removing smaller second growth trees, pruning lower branches and removing fine fuels on the forest floor. Mature and deciduous trees will not be impacted. Trees within 30 metres of the Cheakamus River will be preserved. The First Nations cultural site located at the start of the Cheakamus Lake forest service road will not be treated.
The budget for this phase of the CCF fuel thinning project is $320,000, funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (75 per cent) and RMOW (25 percent). Log sales and the sale of the wood debris to the RMOW solid waste composter in the Callaghan Valley will provide additional funding for the project.
There is a significant risk of large-scale wildfire within the Sea to Sky Corridor due to the number of people recreating in the backcountry and increasingly longer, hotter, drier summers. Fuel thinning work impedes the ability of wildfire to spread between forests and communities and makes wildfires easier to fight. Learn more about wildfire management in Cheakamus Community Forest and throughout Whistler at whistler.ca/FuelThinning.
About the Cheakamus Community Forest
The Cheakamus Community forest is one of more than 50 community-managed forests in British Columbia. Situated on more than 33,000 hectares surrounding Whistler, B.C. the Cheakamus Community Forest was established in April 2009, when the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) came together to sign a 25-year tenure with the provincial ministry of Forests and Range (now the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development). Together the three equal partners oversee the management and operation of the forest under the banner of the Cheakamus Community Forest Society, and independent, not-for-profit organization. Learn more at cheakamuscommunityforest.com.