San Juan Public Land Center (SJPLC)
The SJPLC had prioritized needed work prior to the National Fire Plan and they realized that they needed additional staff to facilitate in hazardous fuels reduction. When the National Fire Plan passed, SJPLC was ready to hire to facilitate the work that needed to be done on the ground. As additional money started to come for fuels reduction, they had the person power to accomplish their goals. Currently, they need more people to oversee timber contracts and mechanical thinning work. Their track record on the forest is good, so the Region has been very supportive with financing. They have good working relationships with the Timber Management Authority and the Regional Fire Management Officer (FMO).
US Forest Service (USFS)
The USFS treats between 8-15,000 acres per year on the San Juan National Forest and are trying to accelerate treatment to 20-30,000 acres per year. Currently they treat about 90% of their fuel by burning and 10% through mechanical thinning. It will take approximately 30-50 years for the USFS to treat all the fuels in the WUI. BLM treats 4-5,000 acres per year and would like to treat 10,000 acres per year. It will take BLM 10-15 years to do all their WUI work.
In La Plata County, the USFS was able to treat 1,614 acres in FY2001, on three separate projects - Falls Creek (14 acres thinning), Saul's Creek (1,300 acres burning) and Raven Ridge (300 acres hydromowing). In FY 2002, USFS treated Logchute a 2,027 acre burning project. The Missionary Ridge fire curtailed additional action and resulted in 70,000 acres burned. In 2003, the USFS has implemented several projects in La Plata County. Log Chute 608 acres (burning), Falls Creek (40 acres thinning), Little Bear Creek 180 acres (thinning), Vallecito 200 acres (thinning) and the HD Mountains 923 acres (hydromowing).
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
BLM treated approximately 360-460 acres on two projects in FY 2001. Durango Hills was 60 acres of thinning and Grand View was 300-400 acres of hydromowing. In FY 2002 BLM treated 1,207 in the Mayhan (525 acres hydromowing), Forest Lakes (640 acres thinning) and Edgemont (33 acres thinning). In 2003 to date, BLM has implemented the 400-acre Pering Peak Project, which entails hydromowing and thinning. Additional projects planned for the BLM in 2003 include a 200-acre hydromowing and thinning project called Florida/Edgemont, 400 acres in Kernan Canyon, 400 acres in Stinking Spring, and 300 acres in Cash Canyon. Additional projects for the USFS include Electra Lake (2,246 acres thinning), Sawmill Canyon (3,126 acres burning), Deep Creek (650 acres burning), Hermosa (13,153 acres burning), Mitchell Lakes (1,616 acres burning) and Wickenson Mountain (896 acres burning).
The USFS and BLM use a programmatic document, developed in the 1990s, for wildland fires. Basically, if lightning strikes, the fire is allowed to burn within established constraints and guidelines. This forestwide document has since been extended to prescribed burning to cover all issues related to prescribed burning and permits foregoing full NEPA work every time there is a prescribed burn. Threatened and endangered species and archeological NEPA processes still need to be completed, but the programmatic document covers everything else.
For mechanical thinning the BLM is using
individual NEPA documents. These are individual documents, but fairly
large in scope. BLM uses an umbrella Environmental Assessment (EA)
to cover 2 - 3 years of work and projects. They will analyze 10
- 15,000 acres and approve it for mechanical treatment for up to
8 - 10 projects. These NEPA innovations allow the USFS and BLM to
keep projects moving on the forest to reduce hazardous fuels.
The USFS San Juan National Forest is using stewardship contracting on two projects - 1) the Beavers Meadow Restoration Project in La Plata/Archuleta County; and 2) the Pine Zone Project (also known as the Ponderosa Pine Partnership) in Montezuma County. The Beavers Meadow Restoration Project is testing how to blend timber sales, hazardous fuels reduction, road closure, building fire lines and watershed protection all in one package. The Beaver Meadows Restoration Project is a service contract with an embedded timber sale. The timber sale involves the purchase and removal of the merchantable white fir and aspen. Much of the other activity normally part of the timber sale process (including tree cutting, slash treatment, erosion control on landings and skid trails) are treated as service items. The contract includes bid items for cutting trees, slash treatment and erosion control on each cutting unit; for construction of clearing fire lines and fuelbreaks for the anticipated prescribed burning, maintenance of the roads used by the project during the performance of the contract, decommissioning of some old roads and reconstruction of roads used for the projects.
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Copyright©2003 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University