Forest Service scuttles plan for prescribed burn in Crystal Valley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
CARBONDALE – The first prescribed burn in an ambitious, multiyear effort to improve habitat in the White River National Forest surrounding Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley has been scuttled given this spring’s wildfire danger.
The Forest Service had planned a 462-acre burn in the hills above Filoha Meadows in the Crystal River Valley, north of Redstone, but it’s no longer on the table, according to agency spokesman Bill Kight. The burn initially was expected to take place right about now.
“It’s not happening this year,” he said.
Another 30 acres in the area are slated for mechanical treatment – the cutting of vegetation with chain saws – and that work may still go forward this summer, Kight said. Last fall, the habitat project began with the mechanical clearing of 119 acres off Avalanche Creek Road, also in the Crystal Valley.
Plans for prescribed burns are always tentative, Kight noted. Even in a wet spring, they depend on favorable weather and ground conditions.
This year, Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties have already enacted restrictions on open burning in response to the dry conditions, and the Forest Service doesn’t want to allocate crews to lighting fires when they may be needed at any moment to fight them, according to Kight.
“We want to hold our resources back in case we have a wildfire – they seem to be happening on a daily basis,” he said.
On Thursday morning, for example, eight trees that lightning had struck Wednesday night in the Glenwood Springs area were the focus of attention, Kight said. Half of the trees were on private land; the others were on Bureau of Land Management property.
Worrisome lightning strikes in early April are unusual, he said.
“We don’t usually have storms coming through at this time of year laying down lightning strikes when it’s dry enough to start a forest fire,” Kight said.
The White River National Forest has not enacted a fire ban this spring, but bans are already in place in the Arapaho and Roosevelt forests in Colorado. Anyone out in the woods needs to use extra care, Kight stressed.
This spring’s now-canceled Filoha Meadows burn was to be part of a broader plan to cut or burn vegetation on about 50,000 acres in the White River National Forest to improve wildlife habitat. About half of the acreage is in Pitkin County.
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