Prescribed burns set for Battlement, Avalanche Creek | PostIndependent.com

Prescribed burns set for Battlement, Avalanche Creek

Staff Report

Two prescribed burns are scheduled in our area this week, weather permitting.

The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management crews and partners plan a burn on the north aspect of Battlement Mesa, roughly 7 miles from Parachute, on National Forest lands near Garfield County Road 306.

Up to 1,500 acres of pinyon and juniper trees, as well as some gambel oak and mountain shrub species, will be ignited aerially. Smoke is not expected to affect surrounding communities. Hand crews will be on standby for support.

The intent of the project is to promote nutrient recycling of fire-adapted vegetation, to provide an improved food source for wildlife and to create improved winter habitat for deer and elk. A secondary benefit of the project will be reduction of fuel loads in the mountain shrub vegetation across the project area.

The other burn is planned at the end of this week on National Forest lands at Avalanche Creek east of Filoha Meadows; roughly 9 miles south of Carbondale and east of State Highway 133. Up to 500 acres of mountain shrub, pinyon juniper and aspen vegetation are planned to be ignited by hand when conditions and weather are right. Operations will be conducted over three to five days.

The intent of this project is to create improved habitat for wintering bighorn sheep, deer and elk, and to promote the growth of nutrient-rich forage. A secondary benefit of the project will be the reduction of fuel loads in the mountain shrub and aspen vegetation adjacent to homes in the Swiss Village and Filoha Meadows areas.

“This will be the third year we will conduct prescribed fire activities in the Avalanche Creek and Filoha Meadows area,” said Phil Nyland, Forest Service wildlife biologist. “Since beginning, we have seen positive regrowth of grasses, shrubs and aspen, which are critical to the winter forage and habitat in this area for bighorn sheep, deer and elk.”

The Avalanche-Filoha prescribed burn project is part of a large-scale effort between partners to improve habitat for big game and other native wildlife across 45,000 acres on the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. Other prescribed fire projects under this effort have occurred at Basalt Mountain, and are planned in the future near Cattle Creek, Collins Creek and Braderich Creek.

Prescribed burns follow a written plan that requires specific weather and smoke dispersion conditions. Crews are responsible for igniting vegetation, monitoring control and spread of fire and smoke, ensuring fire is held by control features and monitoring fire behavior.

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.

The public is reminded: Do 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. Those who are sensitive to smoke are encouraged to call the Rifle Ranger District Office for additional information. For more information on how prescribed fire smoke may affect your health, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/burninformation.

Information regarding the Battlement Mesa burn is available at the Rifle Ranger District office at 0094 County Road 244, Rifle, by calling 970-625-2371 or by following @WhiteRiverNews on Twitter or Facebook. Information on the Avalanche Creek burn is available at the Forest Service office at 620 Main St., Carbondale, by calling 970-943-3271 or by following @WhiteRiverNews on Twitter or Facebook.