Flood, fire & famine: Forum on Building Climate Change Resilience in the Boundary

On the evening of September 26 in Christina Lake, 55 people from across the Boundary and beyond joined the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Group at a special forum to discuss climate change impacts and ways to build resilience in the Boundary.

Advisory Group Chairperson & RDKB Area ‘C’ Director Grace McGregor and a panel of experts on climate, food systems, economics, ecosystems and watersheds walked participants through provocative and proactive dialogue about how we can develop regional solutions for climate adaptation.

More extremes and record heat – how the new climate warms up and becomes more variable (graphic adapted by Greg Utzig from Mel Reasoner)

The evening started off with a great meal of local food cooked by Lisa Smith and the crew from Lisa’s Lakeside Bistro. Then ecologist Greg Utzig gave a thorough (and sobering) account of how climate change will likely alter the landscapes and ecosystems of the Boundary. In short, changes will be dramatic: grasslands and shrublands will advance as more and more forests will succumb to fire, disease and drought stress. The climatic conditions that allowed our forests to establish will simply cease to occur, and we will need to rethink planning, management and operations in everything from forestry to ranching to recreation. And the bottom line, said Greg, is that the only solution is reducing the production of greenhouse gases – there is no adaptation without mitigation.

Next, Roly Russell gave a dynamic presentation how we might meet the challenge of providing food in a truly sustainable way, including producing more food, getting food to markets, and reducing the impacts of food production. Graham Watt talked about impacts on the Kettle River watershed and solutions relating to water conservation, water re-use and making our shorelines and floodplains more resilient. Ryan Durand focused on the importance of wetlands and of inventorying and mapping our sensitive ecosystems so we can better plan for what we need to protect and restore, and Sandy Mark finished off the presentations by discussing community-based solutions such as linked cooperative development, community solar power, and community-based investment.

In the final part of the evening, participants discussed opportunities and challenges around key initiatives such as community planning to protect riparian and streamside areas; municipal incentives for water capture, storage and re-use; enabling policy for food system planning; local solar power; decreasing interface fire risk with fuel harvest and silviculture; and the challenge conserving and restoring our eco-assets.

The next steps will be to connect the dots among the regional initiatives that touch on climate change and resilience: Official Community Plans, conservation planning, watershed management planning, agricultural area planning, forest management planning, and other activities. A small discussion and working group will soon convene to brainstorm next steps and begin working towards a regional resilience plan – get in touch with Graham (plan@kettleriver.ca) if you would like to be involved.

Thank you Grace McGregor and the RDKB for hosting and funding the event. Thank you Lisa Smith and our presenters for such great food for thought (and our bellies). Thank you Les Johnson for recording and putting the forum up on Youtube, and thank you to all of the participants for attending and putting your thinking caps on. And finally, thank you to Sandy Mark, Lorraine Dick, Mark Ingham and other helpers who made set-up and logistics such a breeze.

Introduction to evening:

Presentations – to jump to specific points of interest use the links below (opens in the youtube webpage):

  • 0:00:34 Greg Utzig – Keynote presentation: What is climate change and how will it affect life in southern BC?
  • 0:36:45 – Graham Watt on Climate Change and Water Resources
  • 0:46:17 – Roly Russell on Food Climate and Resilience
  • 0:58:35 – Ryan Durand – Ecosystems
  • 1:06:10 – Sandy Mark – Economics, Climate Change and Community
  • 1:20:20 – Q&A

Discussion group records

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