Large grass fire had minimal impact on wildlife and plants in Lethbridge

The Elizabeth Hall Wetlands in Lethbridge’s river valley is home to a variety of species, including painted turtles, songbirds, waterfowl and a variety of plants and shrubs.

The grass fire on Tuesday burned a large part of the wetlands, but as Coreen Putman with the Helen Schuler Nature Centre explained, the plants and animals saw minimal impacts from the flames.

“We are still pretty early in the spring and impacts are definitely less,” Putman said.

“The fact that it happened now rather than even two weeks from now.”

Putman said wildfires are a part of the natural progression of grassland areas. She added that due to fire’s fast-moving nature, the flames don’t often burn too deep into the soil and can actually help to replenish the area.

“I think people will actually be quite surprised within a very short amount of time how the wetlands will change visually,” she said.

“It’s going to be technicolored green.”

Putman said the birds, insects and animals have the ability to fly or quickly move away from the fire.

Since it’s so early in the spring, Putman added that nesting is just starting, and with no goslings or other young being hatched or born yet, the impact is minimal.

“Although there would be a little bit of a setback for maybe some of the nesting bird populations and things like that, for the most part, this will just create a healthier plant community that will then help to sustain more birds, a stronger turtle population and food for the beavers,” she said.

Putman said our own behaviors in natural areas, such as allowing dogs off-leash in areas they aren’t supposed to be and cyclists not sticking to the trails, can have longer-lasting impacts on those areas than a grass fire.

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