BLM prescribed fire projects planned

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The Bureau of Land Management’s Little Snake Field Office is set to conduct two spring prescribed burns to improve big-game habitat and reduce built up fuel loads.

To avoid impacting elk during calving season, the burns are scheduled to happen before April 16, the BLM reported in a news release.

The Blacktail Prescribed Burn will be implemented first beginning Monday, most likely requiring several days to complete.

The 915-acre Blacktail Prescribed Burn is a joint effort on Colorado Division of Wildlife and BLM managed lands on the southwest side of Blacktail Mountain directly north of Stagecoach Reservoir.

The objective is to burn 40 to 70 percent, or 366 to 640 acres, of the mountain shrub and sagebrush within the treatment area, which will leave a mosaic of burned and unburned areas that benefit wildlife.

“This area is critical winter habitat for elk, and habitat quality has been deteriorating for years due to declining shrub species productivity and increased browsing and grazing pressure brought on by shrinking habitat,” the BLM reported in the release.

The 660-acre Elk Mountain Prescribed Burn is on the southern side of Elk Mountain six miles northwest of Steamboat Springs.

The predominant vegetation is sagebrush, a mountain shrub, with patches of aspen.

The goal is to limit fire to 30 to 70 percent, or 198 to 462 acres, of the understory to create mosaic and edge effects which will improve wildlife habitat.

“These projects will aid in reducing accumulated natural fuels and the fire hazard on BLM and state lands in the area, and with the amount of rural residences in these areas, wildfire is always a concern” said Dale Beckerman, a BLM fuels specialist, in the release. “Burning also stimulates plant production and shrub re-spouting, which is highly beneficial to wildlife.

“Spring is a good time to conduct these projects. That’s when there is snow and moist conditions at the highest elevations and on northerly facing slopes to keep the fire in check. Last year’s spring storms prevented us from beginning the projects.”

All prescribed fire plans contain specific criteria regarding weather conditions and air quality that must be met to help ensure adequate smoke dispersal, and minimize the potential smoke impacts to local communities.

Smoke will be visible to Routt County residents from both project areas. Most of the smoke will lift and dissipate during the warmest part of the day. Some smoke may linger over the area and in drainages as temperatures drop during the evening.

For additional information, call Beckerman at 826-5000.

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