By Lorena Williams
The Columbine Ranger District is planning a prescribed burn this spring in the Beaver Meadows/First Notch areas of the San Juan National Forest. Weather permitting, burning operations in the area will begin in early April and could continue through early May.
The Vallecito-Piedra project may take several weeks to complete. This planned event will use both ground and aerial ignition methods while following the weather and fuel parameters stated in the prescribed fire plan.
The Vallecito-Piedra prescribed fire encompasses a total of approximately 3,500 acres between Beaver Creek Road and First Notch Road, north of U.S. 160 between Bayfield and Pagosa Springs. Only 1,051 acres are planned for spring prescribed fire; the remaining acres are planned for autumn of 2021.
Reintroduction of prescribed fire is necessary to improve and restore vegetative conditions. The prescribed burns will improve habitat for deer and elk by encouraging resprouting of oak and allowing sunlight to stimulate the growth of grasses and forbs. These projects are also designed to improve the health of ponderosa pine stands by reducing competition from Gambel oak, removing ground litter to expose mineral soil for seed germination, and releasing natural minerals and nutrients into the soil. Prescribed fire also reduces the ladder fuels that can carry fire into the canopy, killing mature trees.
Daytime smoke is expected to travel to the north/northeast and to be lofted high into the atmosphere. However, nighttime smoke will travel downslope into the Beaver Creek drainage, the Piedra River and south to the Pine River just north of Ignacio. Smoke will be heavier in the mornings following burning operations, lifting and clearing out by mid-day, and will be visible from Bayfield, Pagosa Springs and along the U.S. 160 corridor between those two towns. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information, see: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.
Maps of the prescribed burn units and additional San Juan National Forest prescribed fire program news can be found on InciWeb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6288/. For more information, please contact Columbine District Fuels Assistant Fire Management Officer Noah Daniels by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (970) 884-1430.
All offices on the San Juan National Forest are currently conducting business and providing services virtually. For information on the San Juan National Forest, call 247-4874.