Fire and Vegetation Management in the Mountain National Parks

Elk grazing Fire 
(left) Elk Graze in lush grasses one month after the Carrot Creek prescribed fire in 2007 (right) Parks Canada fire crew working on the Mt. Nestor Prescribed Fire in 2009
© Parks Canada

Fire is part of the landscape

For thousands of years, fire has been an integral part of Canada’s landscape. Here in the mountain national parks, it has played a significant and important role in shaping types of vegetation and wildlife species we have in the park.

In the early years

In the early years of our national parks system, fire was seen as something that destroyed scenic beauty and wildlife. The first national park wardens (called Fire and Game Guardians) were hired in 1909 primarily to extinguish wildfires.

In the absence of regular fires

In the absence of regular fires, vegetation changed in the mountain parks. We now have less diverse forests, which offers less diversity of wildlife habitat, forests that are more susceptible to insects and disease and an increased chance of catastrophic wildfire due to a build up of fire fuels in our forests.

Today we use carefully planned prescribed fire

To address these challenges, fire management policies now acknowledge the importance of fire in the mountain national parks. While we continue to suppress threatening wildfires, we now work to reintroduce fire and its benefits to our landscapes. Our current program has evolved from decades of experience fighting, lighting and researching the effects of fire on the landscape. Parks Canada is now a leader in fire management.