Grand Canyon's Fire Management Plan updated
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin recently announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Assessment of Effect (FEIS/AEF) to update the park's Fire Management Plan. The park's current Fire Management Plan was approved in 1992 and was last revised in 2008. The National Park Service (NPS) prepared the FEIS/AEF under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).
Publication of a Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register, initiates a 30-day no-action period. Although the NPS is not accepting public comment on the FEIS/AEF, the document is available for public review. Following the 30-day no-action period, a Record of Decision (ROD) will be prepared that documents the NPS decision and rationale for the decision. The ROD will be released to the public and a summary will be published in the Federal Register. A Fire Management Plan will be prepared subsequent to issuance of the ROD.
Between 1993 and 2006, more than 115,800 acres burned within Grand Canyon National Park. A majority of the acres burned (80 percent) were prescribed fire (46,459) and naturally-ignited fire (46,433) with desirable outcomes.
Unwanted fires accounted for only 20 percent of the total (22,942). After more than 15 years of proactive fire management, progress toward restoring natural fire regimes to the park is measurable, but far from fully achieved. The past amount of managed fire in the park has been insufficient to remedy decades of landscape-scale fire exclusion. In many areas, multiple fire treatments will be needed to restore desired ecological conditions.
The FEIS/AEF describes and analyzes five alternatives designed to implement NPS fire policies in Grand Canyon National Park. For the purposes of this analysis, the FEIS/AEF compares a no-action alternative, which represents Grand Canyon's existing fire management program, to four action alternatives. Each action alternative is a separate proposal for managing hazardous fuels and restoring fire to park ecosystems. To evaluate proposed actions, several program-specific goals were identified that included: 1) Protecting human health and safety and private and public property. 2) Restoring and maintaining park ecosystems in a natural, resilient condition. 3) Protecting the park's natural, cultural, and social values. 4) Promoting a science-based program that relies on current and best-available information. 5) Educating, informing, consulting, and collaborating with tribes, stakeholders, and the public.
Of the alternatives analyzed, the NPS identified Alternative 2, Mixed Fire Treatment Program as the Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative resembles the No-Action Alternative but uses newly defined Fire Management Units and includes suppression, wildland fire-use, and prescribed fires and non-fire treatments with additional options of manual hazard fuel techniques, and mechanical thinning in the Wildland-Urban Interface areas. The focus of the preferred alternative is on restoring and maintaining park ecosystems with prescribed and wildland fire-use fire and reducing hazard fuels in Wildland-Urban Interface areas using prescribed fire and non-fire treatments.
The document will be posted online and is available for review at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca. People who cannot or do not wish to obtain the document online may request a CD by calling Edward Bennett, Environmental Protection Assistant at Grand Canyon National Park, at (928) 638-7695.
For additional information, please contact Maureen Oltrogge, Public Affairs Officer at (928) 638-7779 or at Maureen_Oltrogge@nps.gov or Chris Marks, Deputy Fire Management Officer, at (928) 638-7820 or at Christopher_Marks@nps.gov.