Restoring the role of fire in eastern Canadian national parks

What’s the issue?

Worker setting grass alight using a drip torch.
A drip torch is used to ignite dry fuels at the Lac en Coeur prescribed fire in La Mauricie National Park. Photo: © Elisabeth Caron

Society generally views fire as a destructive force, stamping it out wherever it’s found – historically so, even in Canada’s national parks. Today, Parks Canada has a deeper understanding of the important role fire plays in the health of forest ecosystems. Without fire, many species, such as white pine, red oak and pitch pine, struggle to regenerate. Forests that never burn become less diverse in structure, age and species, and have low reproductive vigor, making them especially susceptible to disease, pest infestation and catastrophic loss. Armed with this knowledge and specially trained staff, Parks Canada has developed a wealth of experience in the use of controlled, or prescribed fire to maintain and restore forest ecosystems. These carefully planned operations also often provide exciting opportunities for park visitors to learn about the practice and benefits of prescribed fire across Canada’s eastern national parks.

What’s our approach?

  • Restore the role of fire as an agent of regeneration by carefully planning and applying prescribed fire.
  • Increase the capacity and expertise of park staff in fire operations.
  • Use expertise from national fire teams based at La Mauricie National Park (Quebec) to lead the application of prescribed fire in five of eastern Canada’s national parks.
  • Target sites where species such as white pine, red oak and pitch pine will naturally regenerate following fire.
  • Develop communication and engagement plans to raise awareness about the role of fire.

What’s been accomplished?

  • Used prescribed fire in 72 percent of target areas across Cape Breton Highlands (1 hectare), Forillon (11 hectares), Kejimkujik (4 hectares), La Mauricie (1,640 hectares) and Thousand Islands (6 hectares) national parks.
  • Created new knowledge and experience in fire management across eastern national parks.
  • Created an animated digital game to teach Canadians about how Parks Canada uses prescribed fire.
  • Conducted engaging media outreach on fire management, such as on CBC radio (available in French only).