July 15th, 2024

Waterton prescribed burn to restore naiver prairie grasslands


By Trevor Busch - Lethbridge Herald on May 11, 2022.

Parks Canada photo A Parks Canada fire crew member ignites vegetation with a hand torch near the Y-Camp prescribed fire perimeter to strengthen a fireguard before aerial ignition.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtbusch@lethbridgeherald.com

Waterton Lakes National Park saw a prescribed burn take place this past week in an effort to restore native prairie grassland.
Fire managers completed ignition operations last week for the Y-Camp prescribed fire in Waterton Lakes National Park.
According to Parks Canada, a prescribed fire is an intentional fire planned and managed by fire specialists. The “prescription” outlines the conditions and procedures necessary to perform the burn both safely and effectively.
Ground and aerial ignition teams created a larger fireguard along the Chief Mountain Highway, according to information from Waterton Lakes National Park. Larger sections of the prescribed fire area were then ignited using the same techniques. They said crews were able to return fire to approximately half of the prescribed fire zone. Precipitation in the evening, overnight, and over the weekend suppressed fire activity. Crew members have been putting out hot spots, patrolling the area, and demobilizing equipment.
According to the release from Waterton Lakes National Park, the objective of the Y-Camp prescribed fire is to restore native prairie by reducing aspen and evergreen tree expansion onto grasslands. Historic photographs show that fire suppression has allowed trees to encroach on park grasslands, with as much as 30 per cent of grasslands lost over the last 100 years. In addition to improving grassland health, this prescribed fire is supposed to reduce the risk of wildfire for neighbours on the park boundary.
Some temporary area closures will remain in place according to information on the Waterton Lakes National Park website, with Wishbone Trail currently being off limits.
No additional smoke impacts are expected to arise from the burning according to the release. Small amounts of smoke from inside the prescribed fire area may be visible over the next week.
Prescribed fire plans are peer reviewed and identify specific weather conditions and resources necessary to ensure the safety of people and property. According to Parks Canada they have nearly 40 years’ experience using fire to naturally restore ecological integrity in national parks.
More information about the prescribed burn and the areas impacted can be found on the Parks Canada website.

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