Wildfire prevention efforts, mountain pine beetle damage as well as some construction and road work mean thousands of trees are being cut down around Jasper, Alta.
Above the Jasper townsite, 350 hectares of trees are being removed as part of a wildfire risk reduction project.
It’s an expansion of the community fireguard that’s been maintained for the last 30 years.
Thousands of pine beetle-infested Lodgepole pine trees and mature spruce trees are being removed to try and make it easier for crews to battle a potential wildfire. The firebreak extends from Patricia Lake to Highway 16.
“We’re basically creating a crescent of cleared space to the north and the west of the community and that will give us more room to defend against fire,” said Dave Argument, a resource conservation manager with Jasper National Park.
A large number of hiking trails in the Pyramid Bench area are being impacted by the tree removal.
Canadian Forest Products is doing the work for free in exchange for the wood.
The fireguard project is expected to be complete by spring 2019.
Meanwhile, Whistlers Campground is receiving a massive upgrade that also includes tree removal.
In the summer months, more than 3,000 tourists use the campsite in Jasper National Park each night. Soon, the 100-hectare campground will be a lot more sparse: thousands of trees are being cut down.
WATCH: If you visit Jasper, you’ll notice the trees are no longer a lush green; they are dying and turning orange. Sarah Kraus tells us more about the huge fire risk created by Mountain Pine Beetles.
In fact, 60 per cent of the campground’s trees are being removed. Most are already dead or pine beetle-infested and are being removed for safety reasons.
“There’s a couple reasons for removing trees from the campground. One is visitor safety and the second is fire risk reduction,” Argument said. “A lot of trees have fallen victim to the mountain pine beetle, an epidemic that’s sweeping through the park at the moment.”
“Just about every site right now at Whistlers right now has a standing Lodgepole pine nearby that has fallen prey to the pine beetle.”
Some trees are also being removed for construction, to widen roads and sites.
Most of the trees are between 40 and 80 years old.
Thousands of seedlings will be transplanted from elsewhere in the park to replace the old trees. The new arrivals will be a mix of Douglas fir, spruce and Lodgepole pine.
“Whistlers is going to be a different campground for the near future,” Argument said.
“Removing 60 per cent of the trees — that’s unavoidable. But as you can see here, the trees that are marked orange, these are the trees targeted for removal.
“A little further back you can see some standing trees, some spruce along the creek. Wherever possible we’re leaving the mature trees to retain some of that sense of being in nature.”
The campground will re-open in the spring of 2020.
— With files from Sarah Kraus