2 large-scale prescribed burns could begin as soon as Monday
March 27, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Northwest Colorado's quickly vanishing snowpack might raise early concerns about summer wildfires, but the smoke residents will see west and south of Steamboat Springs in the coming weeks shouldn't cause alarm.
The Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to conduct two large-scale controlled burns to improve big game habitat and reduce built-up fuel loads. The first burn, on the southwest side of Blacktail Mountain north of Stagecoach Reservoir, is set to begin Monday. The second burn will be conducted on Elk Mountain, also known as Sleeping Giant. Both burns should be done by April 16.
The Blacktail prescribed burn includes a 915-acre area, of which BLM and Colorado Division of Wildlife officials hope to burn 40 to 70 percent. According to a Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit news release, officials want to burn mountain shrub and sagebrush in the treatment area and "leave a mosaic of burned and unburned areas that benefit wildlife."
The Blacktail Mountain area is considered important winter habitat for elk, and officials say the quality of that habitat has been deteriorating throughout the years, in part because of grazing pressure.
The 660-acre Elk Mountain prescribed burn has a similar objective. Officials hope to burn 30 to 70 percent of that area, also to improve wildlife habitat.
"These projects will aid in reducing accumulated natural fuels and the fire hazard on BLM and state lands in the area," BLM fuels specialist Dale Beckerman said in the news release. "Burning also stimulates plant production and shrub re-sprouting, which is highly beneficial to wildlife."
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The prescribed burns were scheduled for last year, but wet spring conditions prevented them from taking place.
Fire Management Unit spokeswoman Lynn Barclay said this time of year is the best and safest period in which to conduct controlled burns. The smoke from the fires will be visible.
For more information about the burns, call Beckerman at 970-826-5000.