Fuels Reduction on Public Lands
United States Forest Service Hazardous Fuel Reduction
The USFS treated 670 acres in 2001, 20 acres in 2002 and 10 acres in 2003. They started planning and preparation work for the 17,000 acre North Uncompahgre Project and the 3,000 acre Dominguez Project in 2003. The very small spring burn window makes some years difficult to implement prescription burns. Smoke management regulations have limited the amount of burning when a window is present. Overall the budget dictates how many mechanical acres can be treated.
Bureau of Land Management Hazardous Fuel Reduction
BLM is focusing their work in areas they see as particularly high risk in Mesa County-these include Glade Park, Unaweep Canyon and Plateau Valley-almost all of which is in pinyon juniper woodland and sage grass. They are working toward a five-year action plan, which is still underdevelopment. The areas chosen for work are intermixed with private, BLM and USFS lands and were identified through a risk assessment process. BLM does not used prescribed fire in these WUI areas but has a Fire Ecologist that is in charge of prescription fire and wildland fire use for fuel treatment outside the WUI areas, mostly in the mountain shrub vegetation type. Unaweep Canyon has treatments in progress now. They have identified many sites through their risk assessment work and they are getting ramped up to address them. WUI projects are evaluated based on WUI conditions, the fire management plan zone, fire ecology, project access and resource consideration. Local support and partnerships with matching funds, adjacent planned efforts, multi-agency partnerships and the likelihood of meeting project deadlines also is taken into consideration.
Smoke management has been one of the biggest challenges for the USFS and BLM. They have had to convert some projects from prescribed fire to mechanical treatment because some permitting requirements have been difficult to meet, like weather monitoring. While mechanical prescriptions are more expensive, they end up having much more control. "You can get it done and also you have a lot less risk" said BLM's Fire management Officer Tim Foley. It is increasingly difficult and expensive to get a "burn window" that will meet weather and fuel moisture prescriptions as well as the smoke management limitations (not to mention the availability of qualified personnel). Often prescribed and managed fire prescriptions will be met at the same time fire suppression activities are occurring. The "challenge" of explaining to the public why you are lighting and allowing some fires to burn while suppressing others is one federal land managers are "treading lightly" with.
In FY2002, BLM had four WUI projects scheduled for implementation and 2,724 acres were treated. 2,560 acres were planned for treatment and 1,232 were treated. 500 acres of the proposed treatment were for prescribed burns that could not take place. In FY2002 there were nine hazardous fuels projects or non-WUI projects and 3,638 acres were treated. 5,210 acres were planned for treatment and 1,819 acres were treated successfully. In FY 2003 4,190 acres were treated mechanically in both WUI and non-WUI settings. Three WUI projects were scheduled for FY03 and two were carried over for a total treatment of 1,657 acres. 727 out of the 1,328 acres not treated in FY02 were treated in FY03. An additional 750 acres of new projects were planned and completed in FY2003. In FY 2003 there were two non-WUI projects scheduled for implementation and seven carryovers. 3,856 acres of carry over projects were completed along with 300 additional new acres.
The BLM hired "fuels planning teams" to keep project progressing through the NEPA process as well as categorical exclusions. The success they have had in treatment is due in part to the interest by non-fire resource specialists in seeing vegetative treatments done that have benefits for fuel reduction and their functional resource specialty. This has kept projects in the pipeline and involved more people with the workload.
BLM ends up using contractors when they need heavy equipment. For instance if the work involves a Hydroaxe or roller chopper, then they will contract out. Contract request for quotes (CRQ) are sent to a list of qualified operators. Contracts are awarded to the low bid. Most of the awards are to relatively local contractors in south Fork, Grand Junction, Silt, Paonia, Delta, and Norwood. There are only two mechanical operators in Mesa County that consistently present competitive bids.
BLM is starting to do maintenance treatment
on areas that were treated in the past, primarily with prescription
fire. They have just hired a fire use module, between 5-8 people,
that will be shared all around western Colorado, but based in Grand
Junction. They will be able to ramp up their treatment work because
this group will be utilized to do prescription burning and wildland
fire use for treatments.
| New Mexico | |
Copyright©2003 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University