Fire Management Initiative
With funding received from Parks Canada’s National Fire Program, also known under FireSmart, fuel modification and fuel management programs, Kouchibouguac National Park undertook an important multi-year project in the fall of 2014 to reduce the risk of fire within the park and improve visitor safety. Fuel modification or fuel management programs are important because they target one of the key contributors to forest fires: fuel. In this case, wood, obviously readily available in national parks, acts as fuel. However, there are some types of wood that can spread fire more quickly, like some types of coniferous trees, while others are more fire-resistant, such as deciduous types of trees (the leafy kind for the most part). The aim of this program is to decrease the amount of high-risk fuel or wood around areas that are at higher risk of fires, such as campgrounds where electricity is in use, where stoves are used on a regular basis, and where campfires are often lit as part of the authentic camping experience.
The current project scope is to be implemented over a period of 5 years, strategically prioritizing areas of higher risk. The needs in fuel management in various Parks around the country and strategies are developed based on need. At Kouchibouguac National Park, the recommended strategy was to clear trees, shrubs and branches that increased the risk of a fire, starting with several dense camping sites in the South Kouchibouguac campground. Multi-functional teams clear trees and shrubs keeping a number of important factors in mind, including visitor safety, visitor experience and nature conservation.
Areas of priority (subject to change)
There is a lot of work to do given that this is the first time Kouchibouguac National Park has undertaken this type of initiative. In order to implement the program in a strategic way, areas of priority have been identified and most of the work is completed in the off-season to minimize disruptions to visitors. The current plan is as follows:
- South Kouchibouguac campground – several sites in Loop 1 and oTENTik designated sites (completed in the Fall of 2014)
- All infrastructures (shelters, kiosk, sheds, etc.) will be cleared in 2015
- Process South Kouchibouguac campground other loops over the next 4 years
This multi-year project will further improve visitor safety and protect Kouchibouguac National Park from specific types of fire incidents, especially during times when New Brunswick forests can be influenced by dry and hot weather, coinciding with the period of highest use by visitors, and at higher risk for forest fires triggered by nature or humans. In addition, the initiative will allow for additional space for larger camping equipment now in use by an increasing number of visitors, thereby improving access to campsites by large RVs and reducing the likelihood of damage to visitor camping equipment. Furthermore, the clearance of branches and shrubs will make it safer for kids to play nearby and reduce the risk of visitor injury.
In addition to decreasing the risk of unintended fires within the campground that could spread throughout Kouchibouguac National Park, this program boast benefits in reducing the risk of invasive species infestations such as the Brown Spruce Longhorn Beetle (BSLB) by removing trees prone to harbour the species and increases the chances that leafy trees and shrubs, which are more fire-resistant, can grow in their place. The trees, shrubs and branches cleared are fed into a wood chipper so wood chips, which are very high in nutrients, can be used as compost in years to come.
Impact on campsites
Every effort is made to minimize the impact on campsite privacy which is often an important factor for South Kouchibouguac campground users. As seasons pass, vegetation regrows and the minimal impacts on campsite privacy are reversed. In addition, trees and branches were cleared around newly installed oTENTiks in order to protect the investment and preserve them to ensure they are available for repeated visitors use in the future.
Kouchibouguac National Park follows nationally established guidelines on fuel management practices. The process involves the following:
- Evaluation of risks through a FireSmart analysis
- Prioritization of areas to be treated (campsites, oTENTiks, various other infrastructure, etc.)
- Conducting the treatments (removal of vegetation)
- Managing the vegetation removed in the form of woodchips to be composted
- Posting evaluation of sites to ascertain whether objectives were met
An additional and important step is informing the public about this initiative and its key benefits, including addressing any concerns raised by visitors, stakeholders, and partners.
Feel free to contact us for more information or if you have any specific questions.