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Parks Canada resuming prescribed burns – weather permitting

“We want to take advantage of the weather to get these prescribed fires implemented."

BANFF – Parks Canada is reigniting plans for prescribed fires this fall after COVID-19 extinguished the agency’s burn program earlier this spring.

Officials say a decision in early spring to suspend prescribed fires aimed to conserve resources in the event of a severe fire season this summer and to help address COVID-19 challenges. 

But Jane Park, a fire and vegetation specialist for Banff National Park, said Parks Canada is getting ready for some prescribed fires following careful analysis and consultation with other fire management agencies.

“We want to take advantage of the weather to get these prescribed fires implemented,” she said.

“We recognize the importance of fire to the ecosystem as well as reducing the wildlife risk to the public and communities.”

In Banff National Park, the Flint’s/Stoney Meadows, Dormer Valley and Alexandra River Valley prescribed fires are on the books for this fall.

Prescribed burns in Kootenay National Park include Redstreak Mountain and Vermilion Guard, while in Yoho, there is one on the books at Float Creek.

Due to precise conditions outlined for each prescribed fire to be allowed to take place, only some of these proposed projects may be completed this year. 

In the Banff field unit, Park said crews have put weather stations in place and have remote cameras to assess vegetation conditions for both the Flint’s/Stoney Meadows and Dormer fires. Equipment is also being taken to both locations.

“It all depends on weather as to which goes first… we’re doing a lot of the logistical work that needs to be done ahead of time,” she said.

“We’re basically prepping for both of them so we can take any opportunity we can get.”

The work in the Dormer Valley, located about 45 kilometres north of the Banff townsite, aims to restore winter range for bighorn sheep and provide habitat for wolves and elk.

“It’s also close to the bison reintroduction range as well,” Park said.

In addition, Parks hopes meadows in the Flint’s/Stoney Meadow are of the Cascade Valley, approximately 28 kilometres north of the Banff townsite, can be burned.

“We’re trying to maintain and restore native grasslands – it’s good for a lot of wildlife,” she said.

The Alexandra River prescribed burn, located in the remote northwest end of Banff National Park bordering Jasper, aims to make the area more attractive for grizzly bears, as well as restore habitat for endangered whitebark pine trees.

“We’re doing quite a bit of whitebark pine restoration work within the mountain national parks,” said Park.

Park also said Parks Canada fire specialists will make every effort to limit smoke during prescribed fire operations. 

“Prescribed fires will only be carried out if weather, wind, and venting conditions allow smoke to disperse into the atmosphere,” she said.

Safety of fire crews remains a top priority.

“We are consulting with health professionals and following all of the COVID health protocols put in place,” said Park.

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