Aerial view of the Redstreak Restoration Area. Restored block contrasts with surrounding ingrown forest.
Newly thinned provincial block of restoration area, contrasting with ingrown forests stands across the rest of the slope (Radium Hot Springs village in top right corner).

The Redstreak Restoration Project, adjacent to the Redstreak campground, is a multi-year and multi-partnered ecosystem-based management project. Kootenay National Park of Canada is the only British Columbia National Park containing the grassland ecosystem. Grasslands are recognized as one of British Columbia most threatened ecosystems and more than 30% of British Columbia’s threatened and endangered species depend upon grasslands to survive. The project aimed at restoring the bighorn sheep winter range and associated open forest and grassland ecosystem and reducing the risk of catastrophic fire adjacent to Redstreak Campground and the community of Radium Hot Spring.

What is the Restreak Restoration Project?

Crew with drip torches in restoration area.
Crews start a prescribed burn in the restoration area with drip torches.

The Redstreak Restoration Project, adjacent to the Redstreak campground, is a multi-year and multi-partnered ecosystem-based management project with the following goals:

  • restore bighorn sheep winter range and associated open forest/grassland ecosystems;
  • provide winter and spring habitat for bighorns that is safe from vehicle collisions;
  • reduce the risk of catastrophic fire adjacent to the Redstreak Campground and the community of Radium Hot Springs;

Where is the Redstreak Restoration Project?

Blackened ground 3 days after the burn.
Blackened ground 3 days post-burn.

The Redstreak Restoration Area Southwestern end of Kootenay National Park of Canada adjacent to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia. Kootenay National Park is the only British-Columbia National Park containing the grassland ecosystem.

Grasslands occur mainly on the dry eastern side of the many north-south mountain ranges that dominate the landscape of British Columbia. The complex mountainous landscape of British Columbia has generated much more diversity in our grasslands compared to those in the large plateau landscapes of the western United States.

What is the status the Redstreak Restoration Area?

Grasslands are recognized as one of BC’s most threatened ecosystems. In fact, grasslands represent less than 1% of the provincial land base, and are far more endangered than old growth forest.

Green grass 2 weeks post-burn.
2 weeks after the burn. Green grass starts to appear.

British Columbia’s grasslands are important for the ranching industry that has raised livestock in BC for over a hundred years. Grassland valleys also provide important transportation corridors and agricultural areas. Grasslands are also becoming the places where people choose to develop their living spaces. There are no large, undisturbed areas of grassland left in British Columbia.

Why is the Redstreak Restoration Area in danger?

Historically the low-elevation forests and grasslands of British Columbia’s Southern Interior depended on occasional low-intensity surface fire (5 – 30 year fire cycle) to maintain their open structure and ecosystem function. Fire suppression created closed forests and loss of habitat for bighorn sheep and other species that rely on grassland/open forest ecosystems.

Grasslands face a number of threats, including residential development, habitat fragmentation, climate change, damage from recreational activities, inappropriate grazing practices, forest in-growth and non-native invasive plants.

Why protect the Redstreak Restoration Area?

3000 hectares have been converted from grasslands to other cover and land use types annually in the Rocky Mountain Trench over the last century.

More than 30% of BC’s threatened or endangered species depend upon grasslands to survive. This includes: bighorn sheep (provincially blue-listed in British Columbia), American badger (COSEWIC endangered), rubber boa (COSEWIC Species of Special concern), flammulated owl (COSEWIC Species of Special concern), the western snowberry/Idaho fescue plant community (provincially red-listed in British Columbia), and approximately 35 provincially red- and blue-listed plants.

What is Parks Canada doing?

Ecosystem and Natural Process Restoration

Tall dry grass 4 months post-burn.
Tall dry grass 4 months after the burn.

Initial restoration work in the Radium area has included forest thinning in the winter of 2001 on provincial lands and has continued in 2002 (provincial lands) and 2003 (national parks lands), totaling 240 ha (126 ha provincial, 114 ha federal). Treatments have also included brushing, piling and burning, non-native plant control, and limited planting of native grass plugs.

In spring 2005, portions of the restored grasslands were treated with a low intensity prescribed fire providing the final touch to the initial phase of the restoration project.

Research and monitoring

Monitoring of vegetation and wildlife demonstrates that grassland species are using the restoration area. This suggests there is potential for other species at risk to inhabit the area as well. We have also proposed the creation of an interpretive trail to manage human use in order to maintain the habitat effectiveness of the restored area.

Public education

Educational programs have been developed and implemented for local schools and students.

Local initiatives exist such as the Bighorn in our Backyard (BIOB) program, which is an outreach program that is funded in part by Parks Canada, and has been an important part of gaining support for restoration in the Columbia Valley, particularly for the project undertaken by Parks Canada.

Outreach has helped local communities to see the economic value of healthy, functioning ecosystems, and the neighbouring village of Radium Hot Springs had adopted the Bighorn Sheep as a community icon. The village also appreciates the tourist draw that the Bighorn Sheep present, and recognize that the project helps protect the village from wildfire.

Working with partners

The Radium-Stoddart Bighorn Sheep Working Member Group consists of more than 30 partners that have been engaged in multi-jurisdictional ecosystem education and conservation activities related to the Redstreak Restoration Area.

How can I help?

One of the main objectives of ecosystem restoration is to increase the amount of habitat available various plant and animal species that depend on grasslands. Therefore, it is important to use these areas in a responsible manner to avoid reducing the impacts we may have on the effectiveness of these restored habitat areas.

Visitors

Ram group feeding in restoration area.
Sheep response to the restoration seems to be positive.
  • Read and obey all trail/road signs and closures;
  • Stay on designated trails, routes or roads to avoid soil disturbance and the spread of non-native invasive species;
  • Travel in small groups;
  • Leave rocks, fossils, plants, and other natural or archaeological objects as you find them. Take home memories and photographs instead;
  • Do not scare, pursue, or harass wildlife;
  • Keep your distance from wild animals. Learn the signals they use to tell you that you are too close. Maintain a distance that is comfortable for them;
  • Pets such as dogs may cause stress for wild animals. Owners should avoid bringing them into the restoration area when possible.

Mountain Bikers

Learn how to minimize damage to trails, soil and vegetation by riding responsibly and using proper riding techniques:

  • Control your bicycle at all times; your speed and the way you ride influences trail management decisions and policies;
  • Avoid skidding and sliding, which can occur by breaking harder than necessary;
  • Stay on existing trails and avoid cutting switchbacks;
  • Learn how to recognize different types of soils. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage. Stay off trails during wet and muddy conditions as tire ruts will become pathways for water erosion;
  • If you find yourself on a wet trail section, stay on the existing trail and avoid creating a new one. Wade Don’t Braid: get wet, ride through the puddle. Riding around puddles widens trails and leads to erosion.