Forest Service gets positive feedback on fuel reduction

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— U.S. Forest Service officials in the area are eager to begin removing the threat of future severe wildfires around Stagecoach.

But they say they recognize the challenge that accompanies prescribed burns on public lands that sit so close to urban areas.

Forest Service representatives held an open house Wednesday to answer questions about their proposal to thin trees and other vegetation on national forest land northeast of Stagecoach.

Several people responded positively to reducing the amount of potential fuel for fires in the area, said Mark Cahur, project team leader for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.

Residents tend to hesitate at introducing a fire into an environment so close to their homes, Cahur said.

"As always, there is a little apprehension about a prescribed fire," he said.

The practice of fire suppression in the United States burned 7 million acres of public and private land in the summer of 2000.

In response, Congress approved a $1.8 billion National Fire Plan to address the dangerous accumulation of fuel loads on public lands in the United States.

The Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest received $400,000 of the funding to implement its own fuel-reduction project.

The Dry Lake Fuel Reduction Project involves land on the north side of the Steamboat Ski Area, down to Buffalo Pass and westward to Elk River Road all the way to Copper Ridge, as well as Morrison Creek near Stagecoach.

Fuel reduction will likely be accomplished through a series of prescribed burns, but other options include mowing brush, thinning smaller trees and removing smaller trees and brush that grow among larger trees.

These techniques could begin as early as spring or early summer and continue over a three-year period, Cahur said, but not without careful planning. The Forest Service wants feedback on four different suggested alternatives to minimize the current fire hazard that exists around the Stagecoach area.

Comments from the community will be taken until Feb. 18.

Chuck Wisecup represented the Oak Creek Fire Protection District at the meeting.

One of the alternatives calls for no action, which puts the Stagecoach area only in greater danger, he said. As more people move to the Stagecoach area, the threat of fire to their homes increases, he said.

Call Cahur at 870-2214 for more information.

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