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Beetle trees coming down around Jasper

 

Some pretty visible FireSmart work is about to take place in Jasper.

As early as next week crews contracted by the municipality will be felling mountain pine beetle affected trees near the municipality, specifically along the sharper slopes on the Pyramid Bench on the town’s west flank.

The town’s legislative services manager told the Fitzhugh on Wednesday that Infinite Forestry Consulting of Grande Prairie was selected from a number of bidders to carry out the work. The town has about $200,000 in its FireSmart war chest now and is hopeful another $200,000 will come in the new year.

Christine Nadon said the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) FireSmart grant will fund part of the work that needs to take place in that strip behind the residential properties largely along Bonhomme Street, starting as early as Monday, and even more visible work in the stand between the Petro Canada and the underpass along Connaught Drive and the Discovery Trail before long. Work will also take place near a number of trail connectors around town.

Signage will be in place, and up-to-date information will be available through Jasper National Park’s trail office.

“The municipality is working with community partners, corporate and institutional, to expand the scope of work and encourage collaboration in community protection,” she said.

They’re targeting trees within 250 metres of homes. The plan is modular so more zones will be tackled as more grant funding comes in. Also, the town’s request for proposals required an estimate of what the bidder could get for the lumber once it’s down; that cash from nearby mills will be plowed back into the project.

“This is all about community safety and as such is an extremely important initiative,” Jasper fire chief Greg Van Tighem said. He’s also the director of protective services. “At this point this is a relatively small project, but residents and visitors will see a drastic change in the forests immediately surrounding the townsite.”

Parks Canada will have two project officers overseeing the work, which will involve tree felling and trimming but little or no burning. Parks is also conducting its own wildfire safety work, with plans to conduct prescribed burns in six zones west of town including around Marjorie Lake, when conditions allow, before the next fire season in 2018.

The municipality’s FireSmart work takes place on a smaller scale. “Extensive” work took place between 2004 and 2011, but the time has returned to reduce the amount of fuel around the townsite.

“With more fuel accumulating over time and with the impact of the mountain pine beetle on our forest, we need to supplement those efforts to improve community protection in the event of a wildfire,” Mayor Richard Ireland said.

~ C. Gilbert

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