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Lands near Okanagan Falls closed to public use due to B.C. wildfire damage

The Thomas Creek wildfire, first discovered on July 11, scorched more than 10,000 hectares of land northeast of Okanagan Falls. . Submitted

Wildfires are a natural part of the ecosystem, but they can also damage land and pose a threat to wildlife. That’s why the provincial government says it’s temporarily blocking public access to a mountainous and rugged area east of Skaha Lake near Okanagan Falls, B.C.

As of Oct. 15, areas within McTaggart-Cowan/nsək’łniw’t wildlife management area (WMA), damaged by this summer’s Thomas Creek fire, have been closed to all public use.

Read more: B.C. wildfire map 2021: Location and size of the fires burning around the province

“The Thomas Creek fire that occurred over the summer has severely damaged a portion of the McTaggart-Cowan/nsək’łniw’t WMA,” said a statement from the ministry of forests, lands and natural resources.

Click to play video: 'Hot, dry and windy across much of B.C. on Friday, concern remains high for residents and wildfire crews'
Hot, dry and windy across much of B.C. on Friday, concern remains high for residents and wildfire crews

“In response to this vulnerability, the burned area is closed to the public. The entire WMA is also closed to mushroom picking, camping and motor-vehicle use.”

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The temporary closure will continue until the threat to wildlife and the habitat is lessened, the province said.

Read more: Area restriction order issued in Okanagan due to Brenda Creek wildfire

The closure does not apply to Indigenous uses for food, social, cultural or ceremonial activities.

Known as nsək’łniw’t in the Okanagan/Syilx language, the area has been protected by the Syilx people and “holds significant cultural value,” a statement said.

Click to play video: 'Wind may be cause for concern as forestry crews fight the Thomas Creek wildfire near Okanagan Falls'
Wind may be cause for concern as forestry crews fight the Thomas Creek wildfire near Okanagan Falls

The Penticton Indian Band’s natural resources department made the recommendation to close the area to public use in an undated report. 

“The nature-based solutions and the recommendations made for regeneration, recovery, and protection of significant and sensitive overlapping ecosystems must address more than just contemporary management issues on the land; it must look at the root of centuries-old colonial human influenced impact activities,” the report stated in its conclusion.

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Read more: Wildfires grow in B.C.: Highway closed and RCMP on alert near Vernon

The wildlife management area was established in 2013 to protect the habitat for at-risk bighorn sheep.

The Thomas Creek wildfire, first discovered on July 11, scorched more than 10,000 hectares of land northeast of Okanagan Falls.

Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfire official provides update on two large fires burning in the South Okanagan'
B.C. wildfire official provides update on two large fires burning in the South Okanagan

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