Crews have begun to thin certain forests around Banff National Park, in some cases removing entire strips of trees.

It’s preventative work but the goal is to make sure it’s difficult for wildfires to spread, endangering buildings and communities.

“For us safety of visitors in the park is a top priority and one of the safety issues that comes with being out in the mountains and the forested areas is wildfire,” said Wildfire Specialist Gregg Walker. “We’re thinning the forests around certain buildings and communities to slow these wildfires down.”

Nowhere was it more prevalent than in Alberta given the past summer season and seeing how dry the summer was around Fort McMurray.

“That’s kind of a rare situation that occurs like that, those are almost the worst possible circumstances and it was a real tragedy. Wildfires happen all the time and we have to mitigate that risk where and when we can.”

Walker says thinning the forests but balancing it with the wildlife needs often go hand in hand.

They’re using a program called ‘FireSmarting’ which will take that into effect the larger scale and longer term restoration of the forest.

“Really what we’re doing is following a set of principles and procedures,” he said.

He says most of this stuff is thinning the fuels but not removing the forest all together, leaving the tall trees but taking out the underground vegetation so that firefighters can get in more safely and increase visibility with wildlife.

Officials will be working with the communities in the area in hopes of sharing the responsibility.

“I’m not saying there are no environmental impacts but most of those are mitigated,” he said. “We will generate some smoke and there will be some visual changes.”

Crews will be working along the Icefields Parkway north of Lake Louise at the Rampart Creek and Mosquito Creek HI Hostels in late October, and work will begin near Baker Creek Mountain Resort on the Bow Valley Parkways in early November.

All work is likely to continue into early December. Work in the town of Banff near the Fenlands Recreation centre will begin late October and continue into the winter.