Penticton Indian Band is using syilx traditional methods to reduce wildfire risk

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By Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Penticton Indian Band (PIB) is working with BC Wildfire Service on a new wildfire risk reduction project using traditional syilx methods.
“All of the PIB [wildfire risk reduction] projects are informed by Elders and knowledge keepers,” says James Pepper, director of PIB’s natural resource department. “They write the prescriptions, then we implement them.”
Pepper says PIB has done several wildfire risk reduction projects throughout the Southern Okanagan over the last few years.
The latest project, which started on Nov. 9, involves burning around 1,300 piles of wood debris in syilx territory around the city of Penticton — in the Penticton Creek watershed, around White Lake Basin, along the Naramata Bench and in the urban Carmi area.
“Smoke and/or flames may be visible from Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Okanagan Falls and HWY 97,” according to PIB’s media release.
“We remove residual timber, we prune the base of larger trees, and we clean up fuel debris on the ground,” says Pepper, who worked in PIB’s natural resources department since 2015.
“Sometimes, depending on the amount of fuel on the ground, we pile it and burn it. And sometimes if it’s less fuel or an appropriate amount of fuel, we spread it out and do a prescribed burn.”
Pepper says the project will be carried out between now and...continued.

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