Grassland area burned

Elk Island National Park

For many years, it was thought all wildfires were destructive and we worked hard to suppress them. Scientists have since learned what Indigenous people have known for centuries: fire is a healthy part of grassland and forest ecosystems. Fire is a naturally occurring phenomenon that plays a role in overall health of grasslands. Fire reduces forest encroachment into grassy meadows, promotes new growth by adding nutrients to the soils and increases the grassland diversity.

Each year park ecologists determine the total area of Elk Island National Park that has been disturbed by both natural and prescribed fire. This data is compared to historical records and is used to determine if the forest is regenerating at a healthy rate.

Current fire management practice in Elk Island National Park is to protect neighboring residents and communities by containing wildfires within the park. The focus of wildfire management is to protect human life first, followed by cultural assets, private property and park infrastructure. Prescribed fires are carried out in many national parks to return this regenerative processes to forest and grassland ecosystems.

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