Notice of permit

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Regional or Local Number: MRG2016-04

Notice is hereby given that pursuant to the provisions of section 74 of the Species at Risk Act permit no. MRG2016-04 is issued.

Purpose:
Activity necessary or beneficial to the species
Activity affecting the species is incidental to the carrying out of the activity

Description:
Parks Canada will be conducting a prescribed fire on the south aspect of lower Mountain Creek approximately six kilometers east of the Trans-Canada Highway (Glacier National Park); conducting guard burning towards a future prescribed fire at 20-mile on the east side of the Beaver Valley (Glacier National Park); and conducting site preparations (for example, tree removal) towards a future prescribed fire east of the Meadows in the Sky Parkway (Mount Revelstoke National Park). These activities can only be conducted when environmental conditions are optimal and will not be occurring throughout the duration of the authorization. Prescribed fires are required to restore ecological integrity by mimicking natural disturbances in areas where wildfires were historically suppressed and provide young seral forests with fire-generated habitat, which will contribute to forest health and increased habitat biodiversity. They result in reduced wildfire risk by creating landscape level barriers that limit the potential for uncontrollable wildfire fire spread, and protect park staff and visitors, valuable infrastructure, facilities, and natural and cultural resources. These activities will contravene section 32 and/or 58 of the Species at Risk Act for Whitebark Pine and/or Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain Population. Whitebark Pine occur in the lower Mountain Creek and 20-mile burn units. Whitebark Pine in the 20-mile burn unit show a high incidence of blister rust, and do not appear to be sufficiently dense to qualify as seed dispersal critical habitat as described in the draft recovery strategy for the species. There is a health monitoring transect in the south portion of the 20-mile burn unit that would qualify as recovery critical habitat. There is no information on infection rates or stand density in the lower Mountain Creek but the Whitebark Pine stand in that burn unit will be protected (see mitigations). Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain Population, and high or low elevation critical habitat identified for the species, occur within the vicinity of all burn units. Critical habitat for the Revelstoke-Shuswap Local Population Unit (containing the Columbia South subpopulation) overlaps with the lower Mountain Creek, Parkway and northern portion of the 20-mile burn units. Critical habitat for the Central Kootenay Local Population Unit (containing the Duncan subpopulation) overlaps with the southern portion of the 20-mile burn unit.

Start Date: 2016-08-23   End Date: 2019-12-31

Issuing Authority: Parks Canada Agency

Authority Used:

  • Species at Risk Act
  • Canada National Parks Act

Location of Activity (province, territory or ocean):

  • British Columbia

Affected Species:

Pre-Conditions:
a)All reasonable alternatives to the activity that would reduce the impact on the species have been considered and the best solution has been adopted: Three alternatives were considered: no prescribed fire, logging to mimic the effects of fire, and consideration of alternate locations. For both species, the option of no prescribed fire would result in an elevated risk of habitat loss through large uncontrollable wildfires. For Whitebark Pine, the option of no prescribed fire would also result continued encroachment of competing species, resulting in reduced habitat for the species. Logging cannot duplicate the effects of fire, for example, it removes nutrients instead of recycling them. Even slash burning after logging results in different ecological effects. Logging also often requires the creation of roads and landings, which would fragment habitat for both species. For Woodland Caribou, alternate locations outside of high and low elevation critical habitat were not available or appropriate for these activities. All of Mount Revelstoke National Park and over 50% of Glacier National Park is high or low elevation critical habitat, and most areas outside of this are rock, ice and alpine tundra, within narrow valleys along the Trans-Canada Highway and/or within vegetation types not targeted for restoration via fire. b)All feasible measures will be taken to minimize the impact of the activity on the species or its critical habitat or the residences of its individuals: Where Whitebark Pine are present, a low-moderate burn intensity will be used to reduce harm to individual trees and soil conditions. The portion of the lower Mountain Creek burn unit containing Whitebark Pine, the health monitoring transect at 20-mile, and any other mature trees identified as potentially rust-resistant will be further protected using fire guard techniques such as wet lines and burning or removal of forest fuels around the trees. Cone caging and collection of cones and seed will also occur, towards conserving genetic diversity, producing seedlings for blister rust resistance testing and for restoration planting. To avoid the recent home range area for the Duncan subpopulation of caribou, burn units were moved north from 30-mile to 20-mile. At Mountain Creek, only 30-60% of the area will be burned, resulting in a patchwork mosaic of vegetation seral stages that will reduce potential increases in predator density and access. At Mountain Creek and 20-mile, the area burned will target lower quality caribou habitat identified through habitat suitability indexes. Continuous burns from ridgetop to valley bottom will be avoided to preserve caribou travel corridors. Green islands will be preserved to allow lichen seed source survival and availability. All sites will be assessed prior to project work to determine whether caribou are occupying the area and, if detected, the work will be delayed until the caribou have moved out of the area. c)The activity will not jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species: The draft population and distribution objective for Whitebark Pine is: To establish a self-sustaining, rust-resistant population of Whitebark Pine throughout the species' range that demonstrates natural seed dispersal, connectivity, genetic diversity and adaptability to changing climate. These activities are expected to assist in achieving these objectives through a reduction in competition with shade-tolerant species, creation of Whitebark Pine regeneration habitat, and providing rust-resistant seedlings for restoration planting. The population and distribution objectives in the 2014 Recovery Strategy for Woodland Caribou, Southern Mountain Population are to: stop the decline in both size and distribution of all local population units; maintain the current distribution within each local population unit; and increase the size of all local population units to self-sustaining levels. The activities will result in a maximum of 0.58% of high or low elevation critical habitat being affected across both local population units. Due to project mitigations, impacts to the functionality of critical habitat (predator density, travel, availability of lichens) are expected to be very low and are not expected to impact the ability to meet population and distribution objectives for either local population unit. Burned areas will also create barriers to help protect high and low elevation critical habitat from catastrophic wildfire. Parks Canada also actively manages the parks to address threats to the species, for example, winter access is restricted on Mount Klotz to protect caribou from human disturbance.

Contact Person(s)
Parks Canada
Species Conservation and Management
Natural Resource Conservation
Parks Canada
30 Victoria Street 3rd floor
Gatineau, QC
J8X 0B3
Tel: 888-773-8888
Fax: 819-420-9273
pca_sar.registrycomments@pc.gc.ca

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