This past summer has seen extreme damage to wildlife populations and their habitats in the Kootenays and areas of the Thompson Okanagan. To combat this, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development has enacted 15 motor vehicle closures under the Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation of the Wildlife Act.
Just over 530,000 hectares will be affected across backcountry roads, although access for community residents, private property, and commercial activities (apart from hunting) will not be restricted. The boundaries were made using natural landmarks of rivers and streams, as well as certain roads.
The closures are in place due to “wildfire impact to habitats that need time to recover erosion of charred soils and impacts to fish habitat, increased vulnerability of wildlife due to migration disruptions, habitat loss and improved sightlines for hunting where vegetation was burned, [and] increased access to wildlife habitat due to the construction of approximately 2,900 kilometers of fire guards,” shares Nigel McInnis, media relations for the Ministry Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development in a press release.
The wildlife damage was also worsened by the heightened level of traffic, with the Highway 1 reroute through Radium Hot Springs after a COVID-19-inspired hiatus and the reopening of provincial borders.
To learn more about which wildfire areas are affected, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021FLNRO0088-002009
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer