Pagosa Ranger district plans prescribed burning for spring

Fire managers at Pagosa Ranger District of the San Juan Public Lands are planning to conduct several prescribed burns on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Lands during the spring. The goals of this treatment are to reintroduce the role of fire to fire-dependent ecosystems, to reduce ground fuels, prune lower branches of trees, provide for nutrient cycling, encourage biological diversity, and promote browse for wildlife and livestock.

Locations identified for burning include:

• Bureau of Land Management lands

Vigil and Abeyta Mesas, 25 miles south of Pagosa Springs.

Mesa Pedregosa, 23 miles south of Pagosa Springs

• Forest Service lands

Burns Canyon area, nine miles southwest of Pagosa Springs.

The headwaters of Devil Creek in the Turkey Springs area seven miles northwest of downtown of Pagosa Springs.

Within the Piedra Area west of First Fork Road and the Piedra River, between Sheep Creek and First Fork.

Each burn has a plan that describes conditions which must be met before ignition and during burning, including temperatures; moisture level of the grasses, needles, and trees; wind speed; and smoke dispersal. Spring and fall are generally the best times of year to burn when temperatures are more moderate and the fuels have enough moisture to keep the fire at a low intensity.

The goals of this treatment are to reintroduce the role of fire to this fire-dependent ecosystem, to reduce ground fuels, prune lower branches of trees, provide for nutrient cycling, and encourage biological diversity. With the exception of the burn within the Piedra Area, these prescribed burns will be ignited and monitored by firefighters on the ground.

The burn units in the Piedra Area are in a remote location on the west side of the Piedra River between Sheep Creek and the First Fork. Located far from roads and on steep terrain, the units will be ignited by fire managers using plastic sphere devices (PSD) dropped from a helicopter. This method of ignition reduces exposure of firefighters to injuries that occur when working in steep slopes and remote areas and readily ignites fine fuels such as pine needles, leaf litter, and dead grasses. Under the conditions fire managers seek, the method provides a mosaic burn. There is a possibility of temporary restrictions for boaters on the Piedra River during the burn period.

There is limited access to the Piedra Area in spring, due to snow and road closures. Later in the spring, there may be some trail closures within the burn for public safety.

For additional information about the proposed burns or other fuels-reduction efforts, visit the local San Juan Public Lands office, Pagosa Ranger District, at 180 Pagosa St., or call 264-2268.