Alberta Parks has started a series of prescribed fires in the Kananaskis Valley to help manage future wildfires and keep grasslands and forests healthy.
Designed to protect public safety, promote habitat diversity and maintain ecological and recreational values in the area, the Evan-Thomas 10-Year Vegetation Management Strategy (ETVMS) plans for two prescribed burns each year over 10 years.
The last wildfire in this region was recorded in 1936 and burned most of the area in one afternoon. Over the past 80 years, effective wildfire prevention measures have nearly eliminated fire from this landscape.
At the same time, the valley has become an important destination for tourism and recreation in Kananaskis Country, home to popular facilities centred around the Kananaskis Village.
In partnership with the Wildfire Management Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Kananaskis Improvement District, this 10-year strategy will address removal of fuels available to wildfires, such as fallen, dead and diseased trees and abundant ground vegetation.
The strategy, developed in consultation with local stakeholders, the public and First Nations, will help to maintain aspen, grass and shrub ecosystems, reduce conifer encroachment, create natural fuel breaks and restore grizzly, elk, and bighorn sheep habitat.
Prescribed fires initiated this fall coincide with a lull in the tourist season and will be managed by firefighters with Alberta Forestry.
The Evan-Thomas area includes portions of five provincial parks covering 20,000 hectares, of which 1,500 hectares are involved in the ETVMS.