Logging in Canada’s Most Famous National Park to Save It From Wildfires

The loggers’ work was unmistakable.

Flanked by dense forests, the mile-long, 81-acre expanse of land on the mountainside had been stripped nearly clean. Only scattered trees still stood, while some skinny felled trunks had been left behind. A path carved out by logging trucks wasvisible under a light blanket of snow.

The harvesting of trees would be routine in a commercial forest — but this was in Banff, Canada’s most famous national park. Clear-cuttingwas once unimaginable in this green jewel in the Canadian Rockies, where the longstanding policy was to strictly suppress every fire and preserve every tree.

But facing a growing threat of wildfires, national park caretakers are increasingly turning to loggers to create fire guards: buffers to stop forest fires from advancing into the rest of the park and nearby towns.

“If you were to get a highly intense, rapidly spreading wildfire, this gives fire managers options,’’ David Tavernini, a fire and vegetation expert at Parks Canada, the federal agency that manages national parks, said as he treaded on the cleared forest’s soft floor.

David Tavernini, a fire and vegetation expert at Parks Canada, in a fire guard in Yoho National Park, which is next to Banff.Credit…Amber Bracken for The New York Times

Still reeling from its worst wildfire season on record last year, Canada is now confronting the quick start of a new one. So-called zombie fires, which smoldered under snow-covered ground during the winter, have sprung to life and forced thousands to flee from affected cities and towns in Western Canada.

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