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Fort Nelson First Nation getting help for caribou restoration, wildfire protection efforts

Funding supports Kotcho Lake restoration efforts
Kotcho Lake Restoration Area
Kotcho Lake Restoration Area

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy says communities that depend on forestry and have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are taking on more than 180 local projects to help cope with the economic fallout.

Chief Sharleen Gale of the Fort Nelson First Nation says her community is employing workers to clear forest areas to create breaks that will protect neighbourhoods from the threat of wildfires.

She says other workers who lost their jobs are also improving habitat areas for threatened caribou herds.

"The Fort Nelson First Nation is working hard with local, provincial and federal governments to rebuild the regional economy based on forward-looking sectors, such as geothermal energy, LNG, innovative forestry activities and oil field reclamation," Gale said in a statement. "It is important that we balance our economic success with effective land, air and water stewardship efforts."

Conroy says the projects are part of the province's three-year Forest Employment Program (FEP), which was created in 2019 to provide short-term work for contractors and workers affected by layoffs and mill closures. 

She says the program received a $12-million funding boost as part of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan.

Funds will support the Fort Nelson First Nation's Boreal Caribou Protection and Recovery Plan, and expand restoration season to winter in the Kotcho Lake Restoration area to support the Snake-Sahtahneh caribou herd.

The Kotcho Lake Restoration Area covers 600,000 hectares about 80 kilometres northeast of Fort Nelson.

"The FEP has allowed us Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Connect with the Province of B.C. to do just that by providing funds to build local capacity in forestry operations and protect the communities from wildfire, as well as providing the support we need to continue our work in caribou habitat restoration," said Gale.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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