Pagosa District Awarded $1,435,000 for Forest Improvments
SAN JUAN NATIONAL FOREST RECEIVES ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO IMPROVE FOREST HEALTH AND REDUCE WILDFIRE DANGER
DURANGO, Colorado – February 13, 2017 – The San Juan National Forest will receive additional funding in the coming year to improve the health and resiliency of forests, and decrease the threat of wildfire and beetle infestation on public lands adjacent to private property. Mechanical-thinning and prescribed-fire projects will be undertaken through partnerships with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, State of Colorado, and local communities.
The Pagosa Ranger District will receive $920,000 from the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to be used for fuels reduction on National Forest lands adjacent to the Log Park, Cimarrona Ranch, High West, and San Juan River Village subdivisions south of Pagosa Springs. The work will also improve habitat for wildlife in an area popular for big-game hunting. This will be the District’s third year of participation in the Joint Chiefs’ program, with several local partners contributing in-kind support. Private industry will be contracted to thin 1,400 acres, while larger trees will be harvested on 500 acres under the Pagosa Area Long-Term Stewardship Contract, with prescribed burning to follow. The Joint Chiefs’ funding will also provide for boundary surveys, vegetation monitoring, and educational outreach.
In addition, the Pagosa District will receive $515,000 in U.S. Forest Service Supplemental Fuels Funding for two Archuleta County projects as part of a collaborative effort to restore watersheds and treat hazardous fuels in the San Juan-Chama and Rio Grande watersheds, an effort spanning two states and three national forests in two U.S. Forest Service regions. Private industry will be contracted to mechanically thin 600 acres of National Forest lands adjacent to the Cimarrona Ranch and High West subdivisions near Pagosa Springs. In the Turkey Springs/Brockover Mesa area, prescribed fire will be reintroduced on 1,000 acres of National Forest to expand on efforts over the past two years to protect adjacent subdivisions in the most densely populated section of Archuleta County. The project will also protect a Tri-State transmission line, the sole source of electric power for the Pagosa Springs area.
Another $350,000 in Supplemental Fuels Funding will go towards implementing prescribed fire to reduce hazardous fuels, protect communities, and improve habitat and watershed conditions on 5,000 acres across the San Juan National Forest. On the Columbine Ranger District, prescribed fire will be reintroduced on 2,500 acres of National Forest lands adjacent to the Deer Valley and Sauls Creek subdivisions east of Bayfield. This project will reduce wildfire danger, and maintain and improve critical big-game winter range. On the Dolores Ranger District, prescribed fire will be used to treat 2,500 acres of National Forest lands providing critical big-game winter range along the Dolores River Canyon. Local partners include the Dolores Watershed and Resilient Forests Partnership.
For more information, please contact Travis Bruch, 970 385-1317, or via email at: [email protected].
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Reducing Hazardous Fuels
Forest fuels accumulate rapidly in pine stands. In 5 to 6 years, heavy “roughs” can build up, posing a serious threat from wildfire to all forest resources.
Prescribed fire is the most practical way to reduce dangerous accumulations of combustible fuels under pine and spruce stands. Wildfires that burn into areas where fuels have been reduced by prescribed burning cause less damage and are much easier to control. The appropriate interval between prescribed burns for fuel reduction varies with several factors, including the rate of fuel accumulation, past wildfire occurrence, values at risk, and the risk of a fire. The time interval between fires can be as often as every year although a 3- or 4-year cycle is usually adequate after the initial fuel-reduction burn.
The need to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations is increasing. Without fuel reduction, fire hazard is extremely high in these vast contiguous stands. The initial hazard-reduction burn in a young stand requires exacting conditions of wind, humidity, and temperature.
Subsequent fuel reduction burns need not cover the entire area. The objective is to break up fuel continuity. Fuel reduction on 75 to 80 percent of the area is sufficient. An added advantage of “patchy” burns is that the unburned islands provide cover for wildlife. These unburned patches will not have a dangerous accumulation of fuels at the time of the next burn if they resulted from a lack of fuel during the previous fire. If, however, they were too wet to burn, these islands could result in a hot spot the next time if a heading fire was allowed to sweep through them under appreciably drier conditions. One reason excessive crown scorch should be avoided is because, under some circumstances, it can add more fuel to the forest floor than the fire consumed.
Dispose of Logging Debris
After harvest, unmerchantable limbs and stems are left either scattered across the area or concentrated at logging decks or delimbing gates, depending upon the method of logging. This material is an impediment to both people and planting equipment. If a wildfire occurs within the next few years, fireline construction can be severely hindered; the result being larger burn acreages and higher regeneration losses. Although not all large material will be consumed by a prescribed fire, what is left will be exposed so it can be avoided by tractor-plow operators.
In some cases overstory trees are left during harvest as seed trees, and in others an unevenaged management system such as shelterwood is used. In both situations, the logging debris can still be burned, but you must take more care to protect the remaining trees.
Prepare Sites for Seeding or Planting
Prescribed burning is useful when regenerating pine and spruce by direct seeding, planting, or natural regeneration. On open sites, fire alone can expose adequate mineral soil and control competing vegetation until seedlings become established. Where competing vegetation cannot be adequately reduced by fire, follow up with mechanical or chemical treatment. The fire will improve visibility so that equipment operators can more easily see the stumps of the harvested trees, as well as any other hazards.
Improve Wildlife Habitat
Prescribed burning is highly recommended for wildlife habitat management where pine and spruce is the primary overstory species. Periodic fire tends to favor understory species that require a more open habitat. A mosaic of burned and unburned areas tends to maximize “edge effect” which promotes a large and varied wildlife population. Deer, elk, , dove, and turkey are game species that benefit from prescribed fire. Selecting the proper size, frequency, and timing of burns is crucial to the successful use of fire to improve wildlife habitat. Prescriptions should recognize the biological requirements (such as nesting times) of the preferred wildlife species. Also consider the vegetative condition of the stand and, most importantly, the changes fire will produce in understory stature and species composition.
Prescription burning improves recreation and aesthetic values. For example, burning maintains open stands, produces vegetative changes, and increases numbers and visibility of flowering annuals and biennials. Burning also maintains open spaces such as mountain balds, and creates vistas. Unburned islands increase vegetative diversity which attracts a wider variety of birds and animals. A practical way to maintain many visually attractive vegetative communities and perpetuate many endangered plant species is through the periodic use of prescribed fire.