March 31st, 2021
Residents of Skookumchuck/Sheep Creek/Wasa Lake should be aware that the Rocky Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program in conjunction with the BC Wildfire Service, BC Parks, and the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society are planning to conduct a prescribed burn in the Premier Lake area between April 9th - April 30th, 2021, weather and burning conditions permitting.
Prescribed burns are being conducted for ecosystem restoration purposes and are located approximately 7km east of Skookumchuck, BC. There are two burn units located south of Premier Lake, near Quartz Lake within Premier Lake Provincial Park. The proposed spring burn area is approximately 131 hectares in size and is hatched red on the attached map. A second prescribed burn tentatively scheduled for fall 2021 is hatched in blue. Park boundary is outlined in green.
Historically, the forests in the Rocky Mountain Trench were renewed through frequent, low-intensity ground fires. Such fires removed the shrubby understory and created a relatively open forest with large, healthy trees. The exclusion of fire from the landscape over recent decades has increased the fuels that contribute to the risk of more intense and damaging fires; and reduced the amount of grasslands and open forests in the Rocky Mountain Trench. Combined with other factors, the resulting forest ingrowth has caused an overall deterioration in wildlife habitat, cattle forage and other values.
The reintroduction of low-intensity ground fires to these forests is intended to maintain and restore what ecologists describe as “fire maintained, Douglas fir, fescue grass community”, which is natural for these sites. This particular set of fires creates open forest and open range forage units for ungulates in the valley bottom but more importantly they are designed to create a corridor from the Diorite Range to the east to the cliffs and hillsides of Premier Ridge. Improved visual quality increases the chances that Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) can travel between the two habitat units. These two controlled burn projects are also a very good example of planning landscape level projects across multiple jurisdictions like vacant Crown land and a provincial park. This thinning and controlled burning of the landscape mimic the traditional land management practices of the First Nations who originally occupied the Rocky Mountain Trench.
The prescribed fires are part of an ongoing restoration program with the BC Provincial Government in partnership with many non-government organizations. For more information, visit www.trench-er.com
The public is invited to contact the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program and BC Parks, as noted below, to discuss the use of fire as a management tool and other aspects of ecosystem restoration.
Kootenay Conservation Specialist
Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society
Member of Ecosystem Restoration Program
Special thanks to all our funders for this prescribed burn and for their support in the thinning and spacing projects over the past ten years; The Habitat Conservation Trust fund, The Columbia Basin Trust, the Fish Wildlife Compensation Program (Columbia Basin) and funding from BC Parks and the BC Wildfire Service