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Dolores Forest District Will Save Prescribed Burns until Fall

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US Fish and Wildife Service
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Creative Commons

Recent wet weather has pushed back plans for prescribed fires in the Dolores District of the San Juan National Forest until this fall. The fire management officer for the district, Pat Seekins, says that planned prescribed burns in the Haycamp Mesa and Lake Canyon areas now will likely have to wait until mid-September or October because of the moisture. The agency does not conduct prescribed burning in the summer.

The Forest Service can thin brush by using both prescribed fires, which it sets, and resource-benefit fires, which are lightning-caused but allowed to burn. But there has been a record low fire season in the Dolores District recently, with only 4 lightning-caused blazes last summer.

Seekins says that mechanical treatments such as timber cutting can also help thin forests, but prescribed fires are the most cost-effective option. He also said that low-intensity fires in ponderosa forests are a natural part of the ecosystem, reducing the amount of understory and helping to encourage a mixed-age forest. Seekins says a realistic goal for fire management is to burn 2,500 to 5,000 acres annually, but 40,000 to 50,000 total acres would have to burn each year to return to a normally-functioning ecosystem.

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