Fall 2016 - Bill 24: Forest and Prairie Protection Amendment Act
In 2016, Alberta wildfire crews fought more than 1,300 fires. This included the devastating 590,000-hectare wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray and many surrounding communities in May, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, shut down oil sands operations for a month and caused grave environmental and forestry damage.
Similar fires happen every year, and approximately 7 out of 10 wildfires over the last ten years have been caused by human activity. These fires are 100 per cent preventable.
Working from the lessons learned in the Fort McMurray fire and others, including the Slave Lake fire of 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is proposing changes to the Forest and Prairie Protection Act.
The changes were crafted after consultation with industry, other levels of government and with first responders.
Support has been widespread.
These changes will increase the ability of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Parks, Alberta Justice and municipality staff to monitor and deter high risk activity in fire sensitive areas.
This includes a significant increase of fines for reckless and irresponsible behavior which is in clear disregard for public safety under fire ban situations. As well, it creates new administrative penalties for industrial or business operators who do not meet precautionary standards and new specified fines and violation tickets for on-the-spot offences.
In addition, the proposed amendments will provide greater flexibility in controlling recreational activities during hazardous wildfire conditions, restrict off-road vehicle use and prohibit the use of equipment, such as drones, which can interfere with fire fighting operations.
Bill 24 passed third reading in the Legislature on November 22, 2016 and came into force on December 9, 2016.