Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier (right) in Fort McMurray speaking with Alberta Wildfire officials during the Horse River Wildfire in May.

Wildfire protection laws to be strengthened

Bill 24, the Forest and Prairie Protection Amendment Act, was tabled in the Legislature on Monday.

Bill 24, the Forest and Prairie Protection Amendment Act, was tabled in the Legislature on Monday, introducing measures aimed at reducing the number of wildfires caused by humans and enhancing firefighting operations.

“Far too many wildfires are triggered by human activity and we need to take proactive steps that will help reduce the risk of this happening,” said Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in a press release from the Alberta Government. “This important legislation will improve our ability to decrease the number of preventable fires, while also strengthening provisions that support the efforts of our wildfire fighters to keep Albertans and their communities safe.”

The proposed amendments to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act will:

Improve public safety and wildfire prevention measures by:

Strengthen penalties to help deter such high-risk activities as abandoning campfires or burning during fire bans;

Simplify the process to restrict activities, such as off-highway vehicle, use when fire conditions are hazardous;

Improve authority to stop actions that interfere with firefighting, including restricting drones; and,

Improve disposal requirements for potentially hazardous forest debris.

Designate March 1 as the official start of fire season to ensure that burning permit requirements are in place in a timely manner.

Clarify operational processes, roles and responsibilities.

“We have seen first-hand how devastating wildfires can be to those who live and work in Alberta’s forests. We support the Government of Alberta’s continued efforts to protect our forests from the risk of further wildfires.” said Paul Whittaker, President and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association.

“Members of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association are responsible users and we want to help the government with its efforts in reducing human-caused wildfires and protecting our forests.”

In 2016, Alberta wildfire crews fought more than 1,300 fires, including a 589,552-hectare wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray in May and destroyed portions of the city and surrounding communities.

About 70 per cent of wildfires over the last five years have been linked to human activity.

“Members of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association are responsible users and we want to help the government with its efforts in reducing human-caused wildfires and protecting our forests,” said Brent Hodgson, President of the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

For more information on Bill 24: Forest and Prairie Protection Amendment Act visit www.assembly.ab.ca.

 

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