Parks Canada is planning to conduct prescribed fires at Riding Mountain National Park between October 1, and November 30, 2020, when conditions are favourable. The areas that are targeted for 2020 will be located between the Lake Katherine Road and the Whirlpool River (230 hectares) and between the south part of the Grey Owl trail and Highway 10 (100 hectares).
Riding Mountain National Park will remain open to visitors during the prescribed fires. Some smoke will be present and visible, but staff will monitor wind conditions and try to ensure smoke will not affect publicly used areas whenever possible. Specific areas will be closed for short periods of time to ensure visitor and staff safety.
The prescribed fire program at Riding Mountain National Park is an important part of the park's grasslands restoration project. Prescribed fires have taken place in this area in 1995, 2005, and 2011.
Parks Canada notes prescribed fires reduce fuel to lessen the severity of wildfires, release nutrients, and allow for a mosaic of ecosystems that support diverse plants and wildlife. When planning to undertake any fire management operation, safety is always priority one. Prescribed fires are only conducted under exacting conditions (e.g. weather, moisture, wind direction, supporting resources, etc.) and will only go forward when the safety of the public, our crews, park infrastructure and neighbouring lands can be assured.
Fire is a natural part of Riding Mountain National Park's ecosystem and this prescribed burn is being conducted in order to improve the ecological condition of fire-dependent forests and to restore grassland communities. This is an important step in restoring healthy, resilient ecosystems. A number of songbirds listed on the Species at Risk Act are associated with fire dependent ecosystems and will benefit from this prescribed burn. The list includes, the Golden-winged warbler, Common nighthawk, Eastern whip-poor-will, and the Red headed woodpecker. By increasing the extent of open grasslands in the area it will also increase suitable habitat for at risk species such as Monarchs, Dakota Skippers and the Yellow-banded bumblebee.
The health and safety of Canadians, visitors, and Parks Canada team members is of the utmost importance to the Agency. As we resume the planning and implementation of prescribed fire activities, we continue to follow the advice of public health experts to support Canada's efforts to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and reduce risks to Canadians, visitors, and employees.