The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are warning residents of Durango, Bayfield, Pagosa Springs, Dolores and Dove Creek that smoke may appear in the sky as prescribed burns are scheduled to begin in the coming days or weeks.
The Columbine Ranger District plans to burn about 1,500 acres in the Beaver Meadows and First Notch area northeast of Bayfield, beginning as soon as late April.
If weather conditions line up, the BLM plans to burn 1,254 acres in the West Dolores Rim project area east of Dove Creek in the first two weeks of May.
It also plans to burn 494 acres on Animas City Mountain, just north of Durango. The BLM postponed this burn last fall citing poor weather conditions and a lack of staff. Burns are carefully planned around weather and containment options; the burn on Animas City Mountain will use existing trails to limit the fire’s spread.
The burn will require the temporary closure of Animas City Mountain trailheads and access points. The new prescription leaves out two units located to the north of the site to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
Prescribed burns will reduce available fuel in the event of wildfires, mitigating a fire’s ability to spread. The units scheduled to burn contain primarily ponderosa pine and Gambel oak.
“(The Beaver Meadows and First Notch) burn project is aimed at reducing hazardous ground fuels, reducing the risk of unplanned catastrophic wildfire, restoring ponderosa pine ecosystems, and improving wildlife habitat,” said the San Juan National Forest spokeswoman Lorena Williams in a news release. “The forests in Southwest Colorado are part of a fire-adapted ecosystem, which historically experienced frequent, low intensity fires on a large scale.”
Burns typically take place in the morning before winds rise, and smoke will be thickest and heaviest in those hours. The Forest Service anticipates that smoke will be visible from Bayfield, Pagosa Springs and the U.S. Highway 160 corridor between the two towns.
Information and updates on both agencies’ projects can be found on the InciWeb site.