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Posted: April 20, 2018

Prescribed burn scheduled next week

Weather and fuel moisture conditions permitting, a prescribed burn will be ignited next week to restore grasslands and open forests on federal reserve land and adjacent provincial Crown land near Cherry Creek.

The ʔaq̓am Lands and Natural Resources Department have planned a low-intensity controlled burn on 385 hectares of the Kootenay Indian Reserve. Ecosystem restoration projects have been ongoing on these sites for several years. Initial thinning treatments, specifically a logging operation in 2011, have now reduced forest stands to the point where restorative fire can be introduced safely and effectively.

Local forestry contract crews and crews from the provincial Wildfire Management Branch Southeast Fire Centre will conduct the burn using plans prepared to achieve specific ecosystem restoration objectives, with additional resourcing being provided by the City of Cranbrook Fire Department. The burn will be supervised by Bob Gray, a fire ecologist from RW Gray Consulting Ltd. of Chilliwack.

The burn will improve grazing for elk and cattle and will enhance habitat for a number of endangered species including: badger, Lewis’ woodpecker, common nighthawk and flammulated owls.

The prescribed burn will be ignited only when in prescribed conditions (a combination of weather and fuel moisture conditions).

Prescribed burns mimic the frequent low-intensity ground fires that historically maintained grasslands and open forests in the East Kootenay and Upper Columbia Valley. This prescribed burn will be the first large-scale project in recent decades that will reintroduce a traditional Ktunaxa land management practice back onto ʔaq̓am lands.

Low-intensity fires have historically controlled tree regeneration, recycled soil nutrients, improved the vigour of bunchgrasses and shrubs, improved forest health, and reduced the risk of more severe wildfire.

Funding for this prescribed burn is provided in part by the Federal Interdepartment Recovery Fund.

Visit to learn more about ecosystem restoration in the Rocky Mountain Trench.

The Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program (Trench ER Program) has operated as a successful partnership of government, industry and the public since 1998.

The long-term goal is to restore East Kootenay/Upper Columbia Valley grasslands and open forests to their former fire-maintained condition.

Restoration treatments include thinning forest ingrowth and re-introducing fire to the landscape via controlled burns.

Restoration is taking place on Crown land, in provincial and national parks, on private conservation properties and First Nations reserves from Radium Hot Springs to the US border.

Restoring grasslands and open forests enhances biodiversity; restores habitat for species at risk; improves natural grazing for domestic cattle, elk, deer and bighorn sheep; improves forest health; and reduces the risk of severe wildfire.

ʔaq̓am Lands and Natural Resources Department

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