Carrot Creek Fuel Break on Banff National Park Boundary

Carrot Creek Fuel Break on the southeast boundary of Banff National Park in 1994 (CW-1994-04A-17) and in 2015 (CW-2015-11-06-2931). The fuel break (on the lower to mid left side of the photograph) was harvested with low-impact mechanical fellers in the years 2000 to 2003. Although the fuel break is in a legislated wilderness zone, its clearing was permitted under the condition that Parks Canada would rapidly link  it with aggressive efforts to use wildland fire to restore ecological integrity on adjacent landscapes. Further, forest removal was also extended northwest into Banff National Park along either side of  the main Alta-Link electrical power line that links the Alberta grid to Banff townsite. The clearing makes routine prescribed burning or occurrence of wildfire possible with minimal risk of power outages to the town. 

During the spring of 2003 Parks Canada began ignition of the massive Fairholme Range prescribed fire (lower to mid right side of the photograph), an expanse of over 20 square kilometers up-valley from the cleared fuel break zone (see Satellite Image below). The burn’s objective was to restore meadows, younger more healthy pine forests, and important montane wildlife habitats in the lower Bow Valley.1 Ultimately, the Carrot Creek fuel break helped hold the blaze within its prescribed boundaries during the increasingly dry conditions of August, 2003 when wildfires spread across the Alberta and BC mountains. The Alberta government cleared fuel breaks on the opposite side of the valley below Mount Rundle. These clearings and the Fairholme prescribed fire are a good example of an integrated approach to providing fire protection for the Town of Canmore, a town of over 15,000 inhabitants just down valley from Banff’s border, while at the same time restoring the park’s fire dependent ecosystem.2

Footnotes and Satellite Image

  1. White, C. A., T. E. Hurd, M. Hebblewhite, and I. R. Pengelly. “Mitigating Fire Suppression, Highway, and Habitat Fragmentation Effects in the Banff Bow Valley Ecosystem: Preliminary Results of a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) Design with Path Analysis.” In Monitoring the Effectiveness of Biological Conservation, edited by J. Innes and J. Timko. Vancouver: Forrex, 2007; White, C. A. and W. Fisher. “Ecological Restoration in the Canadian Rocky Mountains: Developing and Implementing the 1997 Banff National Park Management Plan.” Pages 212-242 in: M. Price, editor. Mountain Area Research and Management: Integrated Approaches. Earthscan, London, 2007.
  2. Wakinshaw, S. Town of Canmore: FireSmart Mitigation Strategy. Canmore: Montane Forest Management Ltd., 2010; White, C. A., D. D. B. Perrakis, V. G. Kafka, and T. Ennis. “Burning at the Edge: Integrating Biophysical and Eco-Cultural Fire Processes in Canada’s Parks and Protected Areas.” Fire Ecology 7 (2011): 74-106.
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