Firefighters saving sensitive marmot habitat after fire sparked by lightning near Nanaimo

Firefighters saving sensitive marmot habitat after fire sparked by lightning near Nanaimo
WatchBiologists are cheering the efforts of firefighters who are making progress on a lightning-sparked wildfire in sensitive habitat south of Nanaimo. The area is home to the endangered Vancouver Island marmot.

Green Mountain, southwest of Nanaimo, is so remote that biologists fly in by helicopter to release endangered Vancouver Island marmots in the area.

On July 31, a wildfire was sparked by lightning on Green Mountain. . The wildfire is classified as “being held” at 16.90 hectares, which means it is unlikely to grow beyond its boundaries in forecasted conditions.

Firefighters were struggling through nearly vertical terrain and cliffs to save the area of Green Mountain where the Vancouver Island marmots live.

“Along a ridgeline is a number of colonies,” said Adam Taylor of The Marmot Recovery Foundation.

“So our big fear at the start of this that we would see the wildfire get out of control, spread through that ridgeline and impact a number of colonies. That doesn’t seem to be happening which is fantastic news,” he said.

Mother Nature helped Wednesday night by delivering needed rain.

According to the Coastal Fire Centre, the fire is now under control in the ridge closest to the endangered marmot habitat and 20 firefighters were on scene Thursday trying to extinguish the 16 hectares still smouldering.

“At this point they don’t feel it’s caused any damage to this mammal,” said Fire Information Officer Donna MacPherson.

“It’s a highly endangered mammal and we are concerned about it as well. We’re a little bit concerned we have people in the area making noise for them, so we’re hopeful everything turns out well for them.”

Taylor said the outcome of the fire has been good for the marmot.

Firefighters will remain on scene until the ground where the fire burned is cool to the touch. According to biologists there may even be a silver lining to the Green Mountain wildfire, as it could open up further meadows for the endangered species.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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