Parks Canada has brought the Village of Radium Hot Springs up to speed on the management of fire and vegetation happening nearby.
At the regular Radium council meeting on Wednesday, February 25th, Jed Cochrane, Parks Canada fire and plant ecologist for Kootenay, Yoho, and Lake Louise National Parks, discussed what he and his team are doing to reduce the potential for severe forest fires and restore the native habitat, namely in the areas closest to Radium.
“(Presenting to council) is really an opportunity for us to share what we’re doing and emphasize why we’re doing it, and to give them an opportunity to ask questions or raise any concerns they may have,” he told The Valley Echo.
Since human activity has been interfering with naturally caused forest fires, many ecosystems have forgone the natural restoration that would have otherwise occurred. Cochrane said that in Radium, Parks is focusing on restoring two specific areas near Radium — the Redstreak Benches and Sinclair Canyon — where controlled burnings will be taking place for the next month and a half. The dates and methods will vary depending on weather conditions.
The restoration efforts are addressing two objectives: returning ecological conditions to their natural state, and reducing the risk of wildfire spreading to the Radium or the Redstreak Campground. The restoration of those areas consequently fosters a more attractive habitat for the local bighorn sheep herd, enticing them into the mountains instead of the village.
After the habitat has undergone burning, “Mother Nature takes over,” said Cochrane. “It greens up, native plants come back, and habitat will stay maintained as open forest again for another ten years.”
During the burning procedures, some of the southern areas of Kootenay National Park will be closed.
Currently, a portion of the Juniper Trail is closed while crews perform hand thinning, piling, and minor burning before initiating the prescribed burning.
Cochrane said the trail is expected to be open by the beginning of April, and will likely close again for four to five days later in the spring if weather co-operates.
Along with the restoration efforts near the Redstreak Benches, Parks has planned to restore about 80 hectares, mostly through controlled burning.
More intensive efforts have been put forth by Parks over the past six years, after decades of restoration work was backlogged due to a less proactive approach in the past.
“We want to maintain that open forest, open grassland that we want,” he said.
Because the smoke omitted during the controlled burns can cause concern, and to share the objectives of their work, Parks regularly consults with affected neighbours throughout the duration of their projects.
“Meeting with village council about the project gives the public a chance to know what’s going on,” said Cochrane, adding that feedback from Radium council