Medicine Bow National Forest fire crews are hoping to conduct a prescribed burn in the northwest portion of the Sierra Madre Range this spring, as early as this week. The burn will improve vegetation conditions and wildlife habitat, and reduce fire danger by mitigating fuel loading.
The burn units are located on National Forest System lands managed by the Brush Creek-Hayden Ranger District (BCH), approximately 25 miles southwest of Saratoga, Wyo.
The primary burn units to be targeted this spring include approximately 150 acres in the Divide Peak area and are part of the Divide Peak Prescribed Burn Project. Located on the northern end of the Sierra Madres, this project area encompasses about 1,600 acres and is expected to require multiple years to complete burning.
“We are working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Platte Valley Habitat Partnership,” said U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Steve Loose. “The burn is in habitat that is winter range and transition range for big game. Transition range refers to a transition from winter habitat to summer habitat. Broadly, we are trying to add diversity to the plant communities in the area.”
Suitable weather and fuel moisture conditions will determine the exact date of these burns. Burning will not take place unless daily ventilation category (smoke dispersal) forecasts are “good” to “excellent” and other weather-related conditions are favorable. Smoke will likely be visible from the Baggs and Saratoga area. As is often the case, fire managers are faced with a small window of time between snowmelt and vegetation green-up during which to implement the spring burn.
The burn unit is composed of mountain shrubs, grass, and some aspen. To reduce adverse fire activity, a key burn plan requirement is that the unit be mostly surrounded by snow and/or non-burnable breaks in the topography. U.S. Forest Service fire crews will monitor the burn area until all fires are completely out. The fire is expected to burn in a mosaic pattern.
Prescribed burns are used by the Forest Service to benefit wildlife and vegetation. A versatile management tool, the burns can reinvigorate rangeland, mimic historically natural fire disturbances, reduce hazardous fuel buildup, and improve habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Visitors to the area are encouraged to call the BCH Office at (307) 326-2500 with questions or visit the District Office at 2171 Hwy 130, in Saratoga between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Information may also be found on this website, http://fs.usda.gov/mbr, or you can follow the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland on Twitter, @FS_MBRTB.