Prescribed burn planned on Basalt Mtn

Staff report

The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management crews and partners will conduct a prescribed burn within the next few days on the west flank of Basalt Mountain, roughly 3 miles north of El Jebel, if weather conditions are favorable, the U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday.

As much as 1,200 acres of mountain shrub will be ignited by fire crews. Approximately 25 crew members, three engines and a helicopter will be present to implement the prescribed fire. Smoke and flames may be visible around the Roaring Fork Valley during burn operations, especially from the south side of Missouri Heights. The public is asked not to call 911 or emergency services.

The intent of the project is to promote nutrient recycling of fire-adapted vegetation communities, provide an improved food source for wildlife and create habitat conditions that will encourage wintering deer and elk to stay in the area rather than move onto lower elevation private land where they may become a nuisance. This is continuation of the prescribed burning that occurred in fall and spring 2014.

The targeted area is on National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management lands south to Forest Service Road 524, also known as the Basalt Mountain Road.

“Using fire is a cost-effective way to stimulate growth of winter browse for big game, manage shrub cover for native wildlife and help regenerate aspen stands that have become decadent and in decline,” said Phil Nyland, Forest Service wildlife biologist. A secondary benefit of the project will be the reduction of fuel loads in the mountain shrub and aspen vegetation adjacent to homes in the Missouri Heights area.

The Basalt Fire Protection District will provide additional assistance to this project. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has helped with planning the project and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has pledged some $26,000 to assist the cost of federal fire crews.

“This project is part of a large-scale effort being conducted over a 10-year period in partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to improve habitat for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and other native wildlife across 45,000 acres on White River National Forest,” said Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris district ranger.