Forest Fuel Management Community Profile: Spuzzum First Nation

The First Nation community of the Spuzzum First Nation is situated in the coastal-interior transitional zone of the Fraser Canyon region of British Columbia, an area where wildfires are a natural part of the landscape. Wildfires occur frequently, generally every 4 to 50 years in any given location. Changing conditions in our climate and forests mean that wildfires are posing a greater risk to communities than ever before. The wildfires experienced in 2003 were some of the most catastrophic in recent British Columbian history. The Okanagan Mountain fire destroyed over 200 homes and resulted in the emergency evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. Closer to the Spuzzum community, the 2014 Botanie and 2015 Cisco Road fires burned over 3,000 hectares and resulted in the evacuation of hundreds of people in the Lytton area communities.

 The history of wildfire in the region can be seen on the landscape as a mosaic of young and old forests. Due to recent catastrophic wildfires in the region, the Spuzzum First Nation is acutely aware of the risks of wildfire to homes and infrastructure.

 The purpose of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is to guide the Spuzzum community in the management of wildfire risk    within reserve lands and adjacent crown lands. It provides a prioritized list of treatment areas for fuel management work. Through the implementation of this plan, the Spuzzum First Nation aims to become a fire-resilient community.

 The climate around the community of Spuzzum exhibits more of the wetter coastal ecological zones, but also contains minor components of transitional drier interior ecosystems, making this area unique from an ecological perspective. The area exhibits a dominant forest cover that is common to the coastal areas (Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and a minor component of Lodgepole Pine) and contains a shrub layer including species such as Maple and Alder. The predominant biogeoclimatic zone is CWHds (Coastal Western Hemlock dry submaritime).

 The current landscape around Spuzzum is primarily influenced by past wildfire activity, varying aspects and current insect activity. Other factors influencing the landscape are seasonal variations in precipitation, wind and temperature. During the summer months, the Spuzzum area will experience periods of little to no precipitation, and strong winds and sustained temperatures in the 20-25 degree Celsius range. Combined, these environmental factors can lead to very dry conditions with the potential for rapid fire spread – a hazardous scenario in the event a wildfire enters or is ignited in the valley.

 The Spuzzum community falls within the traditional territory of the Nlaka’pamux Nation, an area which encompasses the community of ShTLasht (Ashcroft) in the north, Harrison Lake to  the west, tkoo- lmEE-wsh (Keremeos) to the east, and the Skagit River in the U.S.A to the south. The Nlaka’pamux Territory includes portions of the Fraser, Thompson and Nicola River watersheds. The area is rich in resources that provide food and other goods for the Nlaka’pamux who share an inseparable connection with the land and its water, air, wildlife and plants. Their strong desire to manage the resources in such a way as to ensure their continued existence and well-being is affirmed by all communities in the Resolution on Natural Resources (March 1992).

Compliments of Spuzzum First Nation: