(Pixabay photo)

(Pixabay photo)

Cow-based wildfire mitigation pilot contended by Southeast Kelowna group

‘Targeted grazing’ program would see 50 cows deployed to 60-hectare parcel above Field Road

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling on the City of Kelowna and the provincial government to cancel a pilot wildfire mitigation project that would see cattle grazing a popular trail access site located above Gallagher’s Canyon.

The ‘targeted grazing’ program would see 50 cows deployed to Crown land above Field Road and Gallagher’s Canyon in Southeast Kelowna to have them eat grasses and other tinder to mitigate fire risk.

With some trees and other natural fuel starters in the area already cleared, the cows are scheduled to arrive sometime in May or June to spend three weeks grazing the grass on the 60-hectare parcel. Partially barbed wire fencing, spring-loaded gates and cattle guards are also planned for the KLO Creek-Myra Canyon area to manage and contain the cattle.

“The cows are only going to be at the site for about three weeks in the spring every year, and that’s it. We have these spring-loaded gates that’ll be in place for when the cattle are there, and when the cattle leave, we’ll take the gates off,” said Andrew Hunsberger, the urban forestry supervisor at the City of Kelowna.

Organizers of the Help save the Field Road Trails petition are concerned that the project will impact the area’s access to the trails and have detrimental effects on the environment.

Daphne Richard, the vice president of Friends of the South Slopes (FOSS), said that she understands concerns raised in the petition.

“They’re about talking about permanent fencing here. We’re concerned that some of the trails will have some access around,” said Richard. “But one of the maps that shows where the fencing is going, it’s very close to private property and virtually not enough area to create other trails around.”

FOSS maintains trails surrounding the area, and Richard said that the area is a key link to connecting trail users from KLO Creek Regional Park to Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park.

“Our opinion is that it’s just maybe the wrong site. Our goal — and what we’ve been working towards in terms of the south slopes — we’d love to have this area become part of KLO Creek Regional Park,” she said.

Hunsberger said trail-users can open the gates during the three-week period that they’re there. However, he reiterated that the fencing won’t impact access to the trails.

“There will be opportunities to walk on the outside of this fenced area,” said Hunsberger. “We left trails around the outside of the fenced area to walk through. You can walk around, or you can walk through.”

The petition is hoping to raise 1,000 signatures before May 10 to close the opportunity to erect a fence.

“Ultimately, we would like to see them find another site and do this experiment. We would really like to retain this area as it is today, with trails for the public,” said Richard.

READ MORE: Okanagan schools shifting gears to electric buses

READ MORE: B.C. water sustainability plan pitched to Okanagan stakeholders


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aaron.hemens@kelownacapnews.com

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