Parks fire protest postponed
Craig Gilbert | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marie-France Miron is holding off on a protest to give Jasper National Park managers “the chance to do better.”
The administrator of a Facebook group called Save Jasper No Fire, Miron writes in a letter on page seven of this newspaper that JNP superintendent Alan Fehr and resource officer Salman Rasheed need to prove they have the threat of wildfire to the townsite in-hand.
“Are you the two who will be known for having taken the right measures in order to keep our town safe or are you going to be remembered as those who failed and let our town burn?”
Fehr told the Fitzhugh on Tuesday morning that Parks managers understand the concern red pine trees have created for residents.
“There’s no question Parks Canada for many years has taken wildfire preparedness very seriously,” he said. “Things have not changed. It’s interesting. We recognize people are concerned but from our perspective, Jasper has always been a forested environment and forest-based community.”
He said Fire Smart work in JNP began in earnest in the early 2000s.
“Previous superintendents and fire management people saw this many years ago when we started FireSmart in earnest,” he said. “That was work based on cuts from many years ago and we continue to refresh, revitalize and add to them.”
More mechanical thinning is planned for this November. A logging program planned for the winter was cut short by the spring thaw. The summer between that Jasper is in now has been a source of consternation for some residents.
Fehr said the park’s fire crew may be out in the community fireguard doing more thinning if time permits.
He said Parks would be open to holding another public information session.
“We share info in a whole host of ways,” he said. “The municipality and Parks work very closely together. For example, we have mailouts and newsletters. We had the open house together. A lot of the key information we have to share, we shared there. There’s no sort of information we’re withholding.”
Weekly fire bulletins have started back up. Bulletins went out daily for a period during last summer’s two-month fire ban, that could be the case again this year.
“It’s about ensuring people have a source of information they can go to that’s official that’s current and accurate,” Fehr said. “Through social media and other avenues, a lot of misinformation can get out into the public. Our concern is about accurate, timely information about what’s happening and what are plans are.”
He said those plans don’t include a clear-cutting around the townsite, as Miron and some other residents are calling for.
“What we do is we look at whole suite of options available to us,” he said. We try to consider all aspects of wildfire risk reduction, that people live here and that’s it’s a visitor destination.
“When you go into community fuel break, you see there’s a big clearing there already. That’s along with other thinning we’ve done. That allows us to respond to fires. We feel this tool is most appropriate in these circumstances.”
He said Waterton National Park was an example of a fire break similar to Jasper’s doing its job.
“I worked in Prince Albert National Park prior to coming to Jasper,” he continued. “There, there is a fire break, and the forest is thinned around the town site. Crews would be in there constantly. A clear cut approach is definitely one tool, but there are other ways of managing wildfire and reducing risk than just going to clearcut. I really want to emphasize that the planning, preparedness and response work is part of work we do that is ongoing.”