Event Recap: Forests on Fire Seminar

Forests on Fire Seminar

Hosted by the Crowsnest Conservation Society on Feb. 7, 2018 in Blairmore, Alberta

When Dave Andison got a call in December inviting him to speak at a seminar hosted by the Crowsnest Conservation Society, he was immediately interested. The Society was planning an evening of talks to learn more about wildfire—and if there’s one thing the Landscapes in Motion team loves, it’s talking about fire!

Dave presented a talk titled “What is a fire regime, and why should I care?” During this talk, he emphasized that the region’s historic fire regime (frequency, size, and severity) produced a unique range of ecological goods and services such as old forest, habitat, and even fire threat—just like an ecological fingerprint. In Alberta’s foothills, humans have moved the ecosystem’s fingerprint outside of its historic range by putting out fires and leaving harvest patterns unlike any fire pattern that came before—and that’s before we even start talking about climate change. Dave discussed what these shifts mean in terms of an ecosystem’s health and resilience (its ability to recover following a disturbance) and ended by discussing what it might take to restore an ecosystem’s historic fingerprint.

 Photo taken of Willoughby Ridge in 1913, courtesy of the Mountain Legacy Project.
 Photo taken of Willoughby Ridge in 2006, courtesy of the Mountain Legacy Project.

Side-by-side photos of Willoughby Ridge in 1913 (left) and 2006 (right) help to illustrate how the ecological fingerprint of this landscape has changed due to human intervention. Photos courtesy of the Mountain Legacy Project.

The talks that followed described specific effects of fire from different perspectives. Johnathan Large (Parks Canada) discussed fire behaviour and the significant fires that burned in southern Alberta in 2017. Robert Anderson (Alberta Conservation Association and one of the event organizers) discussed fire’s positive and negative effects on local habitats and many of the species that occupy them.

The evening was capped off with a great discussion among speakers, members of the Crowsnest Conservation Society, and other community members who attended. The discussion covered a number of topics, including the role of government in leading restoration and FireSmart efforts, the effectiveness of FireSmart, and how we measure “resilience.” The folks who attended that evening left a strong impression: these are community members who want to do the right thing for their landscape, and events like this demonstrate their dedication to getting the information they need to do so.

We thank the Crowsnest Conservation Society for this opportunity to meet their community and engage in a stimulating and informative evening. Special thanks to Robert Anderson, Judy Cooke, and the rest of the CCS Board for organizing the event. And we thank the incredibly kind attendees who, concerned about Dave driving to Calgary during a snowstorm, offered him a place to stay should he need it.

As Dave concluded his presentation, he was reminded of an exhibit at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre he visited earlier in the day. When it comes to a significant landslide, the exhibit concluded, it is not a matter of if the next big one will occur, but a matter of when—echoing Dave’s own conclusions about wildfire on these landscapes. But as attendees learned that evening, the next big fire can also be a force that creates habitat for wildlife and contributes to a forest’s long-term health.

The Crowsnest Conservation Society is a charitable organization based in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, devoted to working together with community partners to ensure a healthy future for the natural environment and the people and wildlife that live in it. Learn more at crowsnestconservation.ca.