Parks Canada to invest millions for Waterton recovery

February 1, 2019

Canada has announced plans to invest $20.9 million (Canadian) to support Waterton’s ongoing recovery from the Kenow Wildfire.

Detected in August 2017 after an intense lightning and thunder storm, that fire ultimately burned about 94,000 acres overall and about 48,000 acres in Waterton Lakes National Park.

The wildfire impacted roughly 38 percent of the Canadian park, which is a sister park to Glacier National Park.

According to Parks Canada, 2017 was Waterton Lakes National Park’s third-driest summer on record.

In Glacier, the Sprague Fire in late August 2017 gutted the dormitory of the beloved Sperry Chalet. Phase one of the chalet’s reconstruction was completed in October.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change, said the country’s national parks play a critical role in protecting nature and wildlife and fighting climate change.

“In 2017, the tireless efforts of Parks Canada and partner agencies ensured public safety and protected property in and around the community of Waterton Lakes, but the Kenow Wildfire had a major impact on other areas of the national park,” McKenna said in a news release.

Parks Canada said the funding will help protect and monitor Waterton’s ecosystems as they recover from the wildfire, described as a natural disturbance.

In addition, the money will support collaborative research with indigenous communities of Waterton’s cultural heritage and also support “various on-the-ground conservation activities.”

And funding will address damaged or destroyed infrastructure, Parks Canada said. Projects will include rehabilitation of the Red Rock Parkway, reconstruction of the Cameron Falls site and Bear’s Hump trail and advancing the reconstruction of Crandell Mountain Campground.

Money that had been earmarked for the Icefields Trail project in Jasper National Park is being re-directed to support recovery in Waterton.

Parks Canada has observed that Waterton’s landscape evolved with fire, noting that wildfires occur naturally “and fulfill critical ecosystem functions, with the positive ecological effects usually greater than the negative.”

Waterton, which is open year-round, is open to visitors. The park is located in the southwest corner of Alberta and shares borders with the United States to the south and British Columbia to the west.

In 2017, Waterton Lakes National Park had about 578,135 visitors. In 2018, after the Kenow Fire, park visitation dropped to about 409,670.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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