The Seabird Island reserve lands fall within the traditional territory of the Stó:lō Nation, an area rich in resources that provides food for the people and serves as valued goods for trade with adjacent Nations. The Stó:lō are “the river people” and thus share an inseparable connection with the land and its water, air, wildlife and plants. The primary objective of the Seabird Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan is to provide assistance to the Seabird Island Band in managing the wildfire threat within their reserve lands and adjacent Crown lands in accordance with their “vision” of how they care for their lands and resources. The forest stands surrounding the communities have been assessed and assigned a wildfire threat rating and those areas with a rating of high or extreme will be recommended for forest fuel reduction treatments to reduce the potential of severe wildfire in the immediate vicinity of the community core and the residential and commercial developments.
The Seabird Island Reserve is an extensively developed and settled community residing on an alluvial flat that is surrounded by water. It is bounded on the east by the Fraser River, and on the south, west, and north by a complex of backchannels and sloughs. Most of the reserve lands are cleared and consist of agricultural land, commercial and industrial developments, residential developments, and a community core consisting of schools, a public health facility, administration offices, a fire hall, and other public buildings. 750 Band members live on-reserve within 235 residences. The Band operates a gas station/corner grocery store on the highway, and a commercial subdivision east of Highway 7 is under development. The remainder of the alluvial flat west of the reserve lands is private agricultural land. The reserve lands are bisected by Highway 7, the CPR line, and two power-lines.
The current forest stand structure within and around Seabird Island consists of immature and thrifty-mature cottonwood flats along the Fraser River and on the alluvial flats, mixed-wood stands dominated by deciduous on steep ground to the south, west, and north of the reserve, and scattered coniferous stands on extremely steep ground to the north-west.
The Seabird Island Reserve totals 1820 hectares, the bulk of which is comprised of community core and residential development, agricultural land, and commercial and industrial land. There are isolated patches of deciduous forest along the Fraser River and adjacent to the home-sites along Maria Slough.
All the forested reserve land was assessed for wildfire threat rating and treatment potential. A total of five plots were established within the forested area—two between Highway 7 and the Fraser River, one west of Highway 7 and north of Seabird Island Road, and two adjacent to the residential areas bordering Maria Slough. The residential areas were also examined, and areas of problematic fuels (primarily blackberry thickets) adjacent to homes were observed to be common throughout the area.
The Seabird Island reserve lands are located on the floor of the upper Fraser Valley, which is narrow and surrounded by mountains and leads directly into the southern interior. Narrow valleys connecting the Coast to the Interior can experience very high winds as air masses ‘funnel’ through the river valley and accelerate due to the Venturi Effect. This can happen throughout the year, but from a forest fire management perspective, the summer weather patterns have the greatest effect. When the southern interior is covered by a high pressure area and a low pressure area approaches the coast, hot and extremely dry katabatic (also known as ‘outflow’ or ‘chinook’) winds can blow from the interior to the coast. The combination of high temperatures, low humidity, and wind can create extremely dangerous conditions for short periods.