Stimulus cash paying laid-off loggers to stem forest fires

Stimulus cash paying laid-off loggers to stem forest fires

6 June 2009

published by

Canada —

Some unemployed forestry workers will head back to the woods to help protect their communities from wildfire under a$30-million federal and provincial stimulus injection announced Friday.

The governments of Canada and Alberta are contributing$15 million each that will provide both economic aid to municipalities hard hit by tough times in the forest industry and reduce their susceptibility to forest fires.

“Today’s investment is about putting people back to work and helping our forestry communities during these challenging economic times, said Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. “By supporting local loggers, we are helping to ensure that we have the workforce in place to drive local economies after the forest industry recovers from the economic slowdown.”

The funding will implement Alberta’s FireSmart–a set of guidelines developed to reduce hazards from forest fire–by hiring jobless or underemployed forestry workers, said Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton.

“By tapping into this pool of available expertise, we are protecting both the physical safety of people and economic health of the towns and cities where they live.”

The money allows the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA),a government and industry group, to work on programs that reduce the risk of wildfire and improve forest health.

Over two years, the projects are expected to create 3,000 seasonal or 1,149 full-time one-year jobs performing FireSmart work.

“Some examples would be cleaning some of the forested areas around town to remove dead wood and debris, reducing the chance of fires starting in the first place and their rate of spread and how intense the fires might build,” said Todd Nash, general manager of FRIAA.

“It puts the kind of people to work that would normally doing logging or reforestation work.

“It will significantly improve the protection of communities that are surrounded by forest, such as White-court, Swan Hills, Fort McMurray and High Level.”

The federal money comes from the Community Adjustment Fund, aimed at creating jobs in local Canadian communities.

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