Park, forest services plan fall burns

Park and forest service fire managers are taking advantage of post-monsoon conditions and cooler temperatures to conduct prescribed burning projects in the area.

Burning is done to re-establish fire's natural role in the ecosystem. Benefits include the recycling of nutrients and biomass, balancing plant regeneration and mortality, providing more diverse habitat for native plants and animals and reducing fuel buildup that can lead to high-intensity wildland fire.

The Park Service plans to treat close to 8,000 acres, starting last weekend on the South Rim with a 1,255 acre burn in ponderosa pine and pinyon-juniper forest in the RX 300/Grapevine units located along Highway 64 about three air miles west of Grandview Point.

On the North Rim, four project areas are ready for treatment.

The Northwest 1, 3 and 5 units include about 2,750 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest located about 15 air miles northwest of the North Rim developed area along the Swamp Ridge road.

The Southwest Roost unit consists of 2,130 acres of ponderosa pine with white fir located at the junction of the W-1 and W-4 roads about nine miles northwest of the North Rim developed area and five miles north of Point Sublime.

The Uncle Jim unit consists of 1,623 acres of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forest along Fuller Canyon road located about two miles northeast of the North Rim developed area. A portion of the North Kaibab Trail forms the west boundary for this unit.

The Walhalla unit is at the north end of the Walhalla Plateau about three miles northeast of the North Rim developed area. This fire will treat about 1,030 acres of ponderosa pine with scattered white fir.

Minor traffic delays are possible. Smoke columns will be visible on days that the fires are ignited. Residual smoke impacts may occur in park developed areas on both rims as well as in the inner canyon area and around Jacob Lake, Page and Tusayan.

For more information, call Mary Rasmussen at 638-7944 or Maureen Oltrogge at 638-7779. For a recorded message on current fire conditions, call 638-7918.

On the Kaibab National Forest, Tusayan Ranger District fire managers plan several prescribed burns.

"Fall is generally our prime time for prescribed burning, and it has also proven to be a good time for managing wildland fire use fires," said Holly Kleindienst, acting assistant fire management officer for the Williams Ranger District. "We plan to continue burning until snow or rain moves in, which is typically in late October to mid-November."

On the Tusayan Ranger District, fire managers have been treating acres in the Topeka Project Area, about a mile west of the park's south entrance. About 470 acres have been treated since mid-September. Now fire managers are focusing on burning research plots established in 2004 by Northern Arizona University's Ecological Restoration Institute. There are 48 total plots on the district and four different types of treatments being implemented that involve some combination of thinning and prescribed burning.

Twelve plots are left without any thinning or burning. Twelve plots are burned but not thinned. Twelve plots are thinned but not burned. And, twelve plots are thinned and burned. The Ecological Restoration Institute has conducted similar research in ponderosa pine forest. The unique part of the research occurring on the Tusayan Ranger District is that it is taking place in pinyon-juniper woodlands.

Once the research plot treatments are completed, fire managers on the Tusayan Ranger District will focus their efforts on treating acres in the Rain, Tusayan East and Scott project areas.

About 200 acres are scheduled for treatment in the Rain area, located in the far western corner of the district. Another 900 acres could be available for treatment in the Tusayan East area, on the east side of state Highway 64 near Tusayan. Finally, about 300 acres are ready for treatment in the Scott area, which is just south of the park on the eastern side of district.

Prior to prescribed burning, forest fire officials evaluate weather conditions and coordinate with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. If conditions do not meet set standards, burns will be postponed until conditions are appropriate.

For more information, contact Jackie Denk at 928-635-5607.

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