Kelowna residents concerned cattle wildfire mitigation will limit access to trail network | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna residents concerned cattle wildfire mitigation will limit access to trail network

Logging near Field Road in Kelowna has already resulted in the loss of trail and hiking access, says an area resident.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Heather Stewart
April 28, 2021 - 6:30 PM

A group of Kelowna residents is petitioning city councillors and the Ministry of Forests and Lands saying a cattle grazing program to prevent wildfires in Southeast Kelowna will inhibit access to a popular trail system.

Heather Stewart, an area resident, said cattle grazing is planned on a trail network that runs above Field Road and the installation of permanent fencing for the cattle will inhibit access to the trails.

“Our belief is it’s not appropriate for cattle, it’s forest, it’s not range and it will really cut off access because they’re putting up gates and cattle guards in and although they’re only putting in cattle for three or four weeks a year, the fence will remain,” she said.

READ MORE: Cattle helping fight B.C. Interior wildfires could soon be going high tech

She said logging in the area as part of the wildfire management has also resulted in the loss of the trail and hiking access.

“It’s really I think cutting off access and making it a lot less open and welcoming to people trying to hike and it’s really well used,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t feel comfortable hiking around cattle.

Stewart said the mitigation work is ruining the landscape.

An online petition against the cattle grazing was created April 26 by a community group of hikers and neighbours, known as the Community Supporting Field Road Trails, on Change.org, Stewart said. As of April 27, the "Help Save the Field Road Trails" petition has gathered more than 400 signatures.

A map for the proposed cattle fence.
A map for the proposed cattle fence.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Heather Stewart

Andrew Hunsberger, urban forestry supervisor with the City of Kelowna, said the City received funding from the province a few years ago to treat 1,000 hectares in areas that were considered critical wildfire risk.

The city is installing fencing for cattle grazing south of the Gallagher’s Canyon community and is proposing for 50 cows to graze in the area for two to three weeks each spring to mitigate wildfire risk from grasses.

“We’re not closing the area off to the public when the cows are in there or at any point for that matter. There’s going to be gates that are spring loaded so when you as a hiker walk into the area, the gate will close behind you and cows can’t get out and there will be signage that cows are in there," he said.

“The fencing will be there but there will be access gates that anyone can use."

The goal is to put up fencing in May and June this year and the cows will be brought in next year as mitigation works has already wrapped up, he said. The city will also encourage Friends of the South Slopes, a group dedicated to preserving the south slopes of Kelowna by constructing and maintaining public facilities, trails and signs, to continue maintaining the trail network.

In early April, the society published a newsletter stating it held a trail use agreement with the South East Kelowna Irrigation District, but since the city has taken over the irrigation district, it “has made it clear that they are now the managers and that there have been no trail or land use permits granted to FOSS.”

Hunsberger said the city will restore the trails that have been logged in the process of wildfire mitigation and the city has been in contact with the Friends of the Southern Slopes Society.

To ensure wildlife isn’t injured, the tops and bottoms of fence won’t be barbed wire, he said.


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