Pagosa District Seeks Public Input on Prescribed Burning Project

The San Juan National Forest is seeking input regarding a proposal for prescribed burning in ponderosa pine and warm-dry mixed conifer zones covering much of the lower and middle elevations of the Pagosa District. Prescribed burning is also proposed in shrub-dominated areas. This would continue and expand the existing prescribed burning program already occurring on the Pagosa District.

All burns would be conducted when weather and fuel conditions result in low-to-moderate intensity surface fire. Past projects in pine and warm-dry mixed conifer stands typically included prescribed burning, but often limited the implementation area to within timber sale or fuels treatment unit boundaries. This proposal expands the use of prescribed burning so that the beneficial effects of fire can be realized outside of these treatment units.

The purpose of this project is to continue efforts on the Pagosa District to:

1) bring current and foreseeable conditions closer to desired conditions in fire-adapted and fire-dependent vegetation types that have historically experienced frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fires;

2) to provide cost effective and targeted fuels treatments to reduce the threat posed by wildland fire to real property and infrastructure;

3) regulate fuels to help facilitate safe, effective, and efficient wildfire response;

4) reduce the potential for widespread, high-severity wildfire in the ponderosa and warm-dry mixed conifer vegetation types and;

5) further progress towards restoring ecosystems that benefit from fire. Reintroducing more frequent, low-to-moderate intensity fires will also promote nutrient recycling and improve vigor in understory grasses, forbs, and shrubs, thus improving wildlife habitat.

There are 193,000 acres of National Forest System Lands in the analysis area. The District goal for the first few years of implementation is to burn 2,000 to 5,000 acres annually, which is similar to the current program. Eventually, if conditions were favorable, as many as 10,000 acres could be burned annually. Similar to current procedures, burns would be ignited by qualified Forest Service personnel according to a burn plan.

Burn plans are implementation plans written after analysis, that describe specific tactics, objectives, resources, weather parameters, smoke management, desired effects, and burn strategies. Ignition would only take place when conditions are suitable for safely achieving the desired low-intensity or moderate-intensity surface fires. Firefighters will patrol burns after ignition. Immediately prior to each burn the public and local fire departments would be notified.

A project scoping document and map are available online here.

The 30-day Scoping comment period began on July 5 and will end August 4, 2017. Written comments may be mailed or hand delivered to Pagosa Ranger District Office, 180 Pagosa Street, PO Box 310, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147 or faxed to 970-264-1538. Comments received will be part of the public record and available for inspection.

For questions, or to provide oral comments via telephone or in person contact Fred Ellis, Assistant Fire Management Officer, 970-264-1541 at the Pagosa Ranger District Office.