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Prescribed burns on 27,600 acres of San Juan National Forest scheduled for this fall

Conditions appear to be ‘really promising’
Over 27,600 acres of federally managed land are scheduled for prescribed burn this fall. (Courtesy of San Juan National Forest)

The San Juan National Forest has an ambitious schedule for prescribed burns this fall, with over 27,600 acres of federally managed land slated for treatment across the Columbine, Pagosa and Dolores ranger districts.

For the most part, the burns are scheduled to take place in areas where the agency has previously pursued treatment, including Beaver Meadows, northeast of Bayfield, Boggy Draw, northeast of Dolores and Salter, east of Cahone.

The fires, which will be set and managed by forest service firefighters, replicate the frequent, low-intensity wildfires to which the ecosystem is adapted.

“It’s looking really promising for both us and Dolores and Pagosa (districts) to all get some burning done this fall,” Columbine District Assistant Fire Management Officer for fuels Noah Daniels said.

The San Juan National Forest plans to complete prescribed burns across all three ranger districts this fall. (Courtesy of San Juan National Forest)

To gauge conditions, forest service staff collect potential fuel – pine needles, leaves, logs – and weighs them before and after baking them in an oven for 24 hours to document their water content. Despite a dry July, moisture levels for fuels are moderate, according to Daniels.

“There's not really much moisture forecast, but we're getting the longer nights and the higher relative humidity overnight, so that helps a lot with settling things down,” he said. “We have really good atmospheric conditions to move the smoke out, which is a big concern, especially for folks who live near these burns.”

In the past, burns have been significantly delayed by uncooperative weather. Of the 3,000 acres scheduled to burn in the Columbine Ranger District, Daniels said he expects at least 2,000 acres of the project to be completed.

Fall SJNF prescribed burn schedule

Columbine Ranger District

· Beaver Meadows: Approximately 2,000 acres, located 10 miles northeast of Bayfield along Beaver Meadows Road FS 135 and Bear Creek Road FS 604.

· Southern HD Mountains: Approximately 1,000 acres, located 12 miles southeast of Bayfield along Turkey Creek Road FS 615A and Goose Creek Road FS 615A.1.

Dolores Ranger District

· Haycamp Mesa: 10,658 acres located 10 miles east of Dolores, along the Haycamp Mesa Road, Forest Service Road NFSR 556.

· Boggy Draw: 8,706 acres located 3 to 15 miles northeast of Dolores, along the Dolores-Norwood Road near Little Bean Canyon, Boggy Draw Road NFSR 527, and Cottonwood Canyon Road NFSR 532.

· Salter: 5,379 acres located 7 to 15 miles east of Cahone, near Salter Y and Ormiston Point Road NFSR 521.

The burns will not close any roads or trails, although Daniels urges the public to drive conservatively near burn areas.

rschafir@durangoherald.com



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