Edmonton

Thinning of trees infested by pine beetles begins Monday in Jasper National Park

Parks Canada will use machinery to thin forests in Jasper National Park devastated by pine beetles in an effort to reduce the risks of wildfires this summer. The work is scheduled to begin Monday.

'It's a means of reducing the danger of wildfire to visitors and the townsite,' says parks official

Mechanical thinning of forests devastated by pine beetles will begin March 12 and continue until April 15. (Wallis Snowdon/CBC)

Parks Canada will use machinery to thin forests in Jasper National Park devastated by pine beetles in an effort to reduce the risks of wildfires this summer.

The work is scheduled to begin Monday.

The equipment is being brought into the Pyramid Bench area west of Jasper townsite, to remove dead lodgepole pine trees and trees affected by mountain pine beetles, said Alan Fehr, field unit supervisor for Jasper National Park.

"It's a means of reducing the danger of wildfire to visitors and the townsite," Fehr told Edmonton AM on Friday.

The work will continue until April 15 as long as the ground remains frozen.

The remainder of the project area will be completed between November 2018 and April 2019.

Prescribed burns are the preferred method to help manage the risk of wildfire because of the ecological benefits, said Fehr.

But prescribed burns need exact conditions, and in this case, the scale of the forest area affected by mountain pine beetle and the proximity to the townsite make mechanical thinning the safest and most effective action, he said.

"To use prescribed burns in that context is a little bit too risky for us," said Fehr. "It's close to town, it's close to some campsites and there's a lot of fuel on the ground."

There may be some temporary trail closures and traffic disruptions while the tree-thinning work is underway. 

Signs will be in place and information is available through the park information centre, said Parks Canada in a release.

with files from Julia Lipscombe

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