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Southeast Kelowna community group expresses concern over wildfire cattle mitigation project

Friends of the South Slopes (FOSS), a community group in Southeast Kelowna, is opposing a wildfire-mitigation project that is proposed for their neighbourhood.

The project would see cattle graze in areas designated high-risk for wildfire near homes on Field Road, in order to help reduce the fuel load.

“We would like to see this project be moved somewhere else. We just really believe it’s not the right site,” said Daphne Richard, Friends of the South Slopes’ vice-president.

“We feel this area is a key link. It connects KLO Regional Park with Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park and beyond. We are concerned about the access. FOSS is always concerned about access, access to the land and access to the trails.”

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One of those affected is nearby resident Chicki Jacques, an avid horse rider.

“I’ve ridden these trails for 32 years. There is access through here to the top trails to go up to June Springs,” said Jacques.

“I’ve done miles and miles of riding and this is my main access.”

The City of Kelowna, however, said access to the trails will not be affected.

“Access shouldn’t be a problem. There are going to be spring-loaded, fully-accessible gates that will give access to the parcel of land that’s designated for grazing,” said Andrew Hunsberger, the City of Kelowna’s urban forestry supervisor.

“I don’t feel like that’s an issue at this time.”

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A petition has garnered over 400 signatures in two days.

Friends of the South Slopes said the traction that the petition has gained shows that the community has not been able to express their thoughts about the project to the city and the provincial government.

“The community really hasn’t had an opportunity to really express (themselves),” said Richard.

Other concerns for the project are what will be the environmental impacts on the land, as well as, the concern with cattle escaping the closed off area and wandering into the neighbourhood. 

The targeted grazing initiative is sponsored by the Ministry of Forests in B.C. and Agriculture.

Click to play video: Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan

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