Evidence of meeting #110 for Natural Resources in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was fire.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Tracey Cooke  Executive Director, Invasive Species Centre
David Nisbet  Partnership and Science Manager, Invasive Species Centre
Kent Hehr  Calgary Centre, Lib.
Darlene Upton  Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency
Gilles Seutin  Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

You used the word “patch” and the word “stand”, and I'm trying to get a sense of how much area we're talking about in each of those differential terms.

12:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

Yes.

Gilles, I don't know if you have anything to add on that.

12:20 p.m.

Dr. Gilles Seutin Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

When it comes to prescribed fires, you have to be very careful. You typically do it on a relatively small scale. It goes from anywhere.... In a very small park like the Thousand Islands it can be one hectare, and it goes to a few hundred, typically.

We've been able to limit and avoid uncontrolled escaped fires in 99% of the cases, but it goes to a few hundred.

October 2nd, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

I have found my table. Some of our fire interventions are as small as 10 hectares. The largest one, at Talbot Lake—these are planned ones—will be up to 4,000 hectares.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

When those trees are burned, is the plan to let the forest just naturally return to its post-fire state rather than doing tree-planting?

12:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

That's right. Yes.

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

You mentioned some protection measures for, I think, the white birch. Is that the name of the tree?

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

It's the whitebark pine.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Will you plant some of those in these new growth forests, or is there going to be some mix of managing the regrowth of the forest with allowing it to happen naturally?

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

In the case of that species, which is an endangered species, some active treatments are being done to limit the impact of the pine beetle, as well as a restoration program and a planning program specifically for that species. Nursery-grown plants are being grown that can then be planted.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

We've heard that it's difficult to detect the mountain pine beetle as it spreads, because when the trees are dead the moths are gone, and it's only earlier on when they're.... What types of tools do you use to determine this? What tools are they using in other parts of the world that we're not using here and that could be used to detect and track the spread in a more proactive way?

12:25 p.m.

Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Dr. Gilles Seutin

If I may respond, fundamentally, we are land managers. We are not the fine experts on, say, pest control or this or that. We are largely borrowing the techniques that are best practices developed by others. In this case, Canadian Forest Service is obviously a world leader in those things.

What we do is that we adapt those techniques and we look at them in the context of conservation. There are things we can't do the same way in a national park because of the conservation mandate.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Such as—?

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

Mechanized removal.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

I thought you said you were doing mechanized removal.

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

We do it where we have access and it doesn't jeopardize ecological values.

In a case where that's limited, we're going in much more targeted and with fire where possible.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

What about the U.S.?

Is the U.S. park service doing things differently than you are doing to manage the mountain pine beetle?

12:25 p.m.

Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Dr. Gilles Seutin

No. It's highly consistent.

Another example of mechanized removal is for other diseases. We typically don't spray. We typically avoid using neonicotinoids. Well, we are not using them. We are banning the use of neonicotinoids in national parks, which in some cases are used for some diseases elsewhere. We're trying to use other techniques.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Is there a chemical treatment for the fungus that the mountain pine beetle carries?

12:25 p.m.

Chief Ecosystem Scientist, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada Agency

Dr. Gilles Seutin

There isn't one that is being applied. It's really mechanical or burning....

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

I can keep going.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal James Maloney

You can't, unfortunately. The clock says 10 here.

Mr. Calkins.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Thanks.

It's great to see some Parks Canada folks here.

I represent a rural area in central Alberta. I used to represent the riding of Wetaskiwin, which reached out to almost Rocky Mountain House and so on, so I'm fairly familiar with the eastern slopes and the Rocky Mountain national parks. I was a former park warden in Jasper.

I'm very curious to find out some of the places that are being prescribed for burns.

This is not a witch hunt, in any way, shape or form, to place blame. However, if my memory serves me correctly, the original source of the outbreak of the mountain pine beetle, which goes back some 10 or 15 years, was in a provincial park in British Columbia. It might have been Tweedsmuir. Because the decision of the day was to not control but to let processes take their part, the infestation has since spread across British Columbia, in through mountain national parks, and is now wreaking havoc in monoculture stands in the Alberta forests.

Has any significant change been made to Parks Canada's policies that would allow for more proactive, active or earlier intervention in these cases? What happens if the next outbreak happens to be in Riding Mountain National Park? Once it gets done spreading across northern Saskatchewan, the first place in Manitoba might happen to be Riding Mountain National Park. If that's the only place we have to head it off at the pass, is Parks Canada policy going to be strong enough to make sure it doesn't spread to the rest of the forest across northern Manitoba?

12:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation, Parks Canada Agency

Darlene Upton

The policy and policy statements we have were established in 1994. They still allow flexibility. I would say what's changed over time is the breadth and quality of the data we have, and the partnerships that have been established around subjects such as this. We have much better information on the table for decision-making that would allow for appropriate interventions as this particular species is spreading.

The policy statements have remained the same, and I did read the three. We can look at them again, but I believe they give us the scope, with the right information, to be making decisions that would ensure the ecological integrity of our places, as well as contribute more broadly to the landscape management of these forest pests.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

The management plan that was developed for the parks, and specifically Jasper, when it comes to the mountain pine beetle, did not change the policy of Parks Canada at all. That was never part of the management plan.