Forest Service planning prescribed burns in region | PostIndependent.com

Forest Service planning prescribed burns in region

U.S. Forest Service

The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit is preparing to conduct several prescribed burns on White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands in Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, weather and conditions permitting.

Prescribed burns are used to improve habitat for big game and other native wildlife and help clear overcrowded undergrowth that poses a wildfire risk.

Last year, firefighters with the UCR burned more than 4,000 acres of prescribed burn and slash piles on White River National Forest and BLM lands including the 902-acre Hunter Creek prescribed burn outside of Aspen, the 464-acre Avalanche prescribed burn outside of Carbondale, the 175-acre Sheep Creek prescribed burn and the 2,260-acre Miller Creek prescribed burn outside of Meeker.

"Prescribed burning is a smart way to approach land management and wildlife habitat restoration," said Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. "The impacts are twofold; it is cost-effective and provides for a healthier forest in the long run with improved habitat conditions for wildlife and fuel-reduction for nearby communities."

This year's potential prescribed burn locations include:

• Avalanche Prescribed Burn, Aspen-Sopris Ranger District: 9 miles south of Carbondale, east of Colorado 133, approximately 500 acres.

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• Cattle Creek Prescribed Burn, Aspen-Sopris Ranger District: 7 miles north of Basalt, northeast of Colorado 82, approximately 1,000 acres.

• Battlements Prescribed Burn, Rifle Ranger District: 9 miles southwest of Parachute, 6 miles east of De Beque, approximately 1,500 acres.

• West Divide Prescribed Burn, Rifle Ranger District and BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office: 14 miles south of Silt, 2,000 acres.

• Sheep Gulch Prescribed Burn, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office: 4 miles north of Gypsum, 240 acres.

The White River National Forest and the BLM have partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on these projects to improve forage regeneration for wildlife. Nutrient-rich new growth can often be seen sprouting as soon as 10 days after a prescribed fire. A secondary benefit of these projects will be the reduction of fuel loads in the mountain shrub and oak brush vegetation in areas that are overgrown.

Burn plans for prescribed burn activities are prepared and approved months in advance by fuel specialists. Each plan prescribes specific weather and smoke dispersion conditions that must be in place in order to proceed. Prescribed fires may be ignited with the help of helicopters or by hand crews.

The public is reminded to not call 911 or emergency services even though smoke may be visible. Most of the smoke will dissipate during the day, although some nighttime smoke may remain in valley bottoms as temperatures drop. Any carryover smoke is expected to be of short duration.

Those who are sensitive to smoke are encouraged to call the White River National Forest supervisor's office or nearby district office for additional information.

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