Big prescribed burn planned north in county

MEEKER I The Blanco Ranger District of the White River National Forest plans to conduct a prescribed burn in the Aldrich Lakes area sometime in late September or early October.
The site for this 850- to 1,500-acre prescribed fire is located approximately 19 miles northeast of Meeker and approximately 19 miles south of Craig on National Forest System lands near Aldrich Lakes and adjoining private lands in Rio Blanco County.
Officials anticipate that this burn may take up to four days to accomplish.
This work is a continuation of collaborative efforts by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Natural Resource Conservation Service and private landowners to manage vegetation for wildland fire mitigation and wildlife habitat improvement.
The prescribed fire will improve wildlife habitat by stimulating new and more nutritious plant production in the burned area.
Officials expect the fire pattern will leave a patchwork of burned and unburned areas, providing wildlife with better areas to feed and also provide areas of unburned vegetation that is important hiding cover.
Due to past suppression efforts, fire has been absent from this area for a number of years, resulting in a large buildup of fuel. This burn will decrease that fuel load, helping reduce the risk of a much larger, unwanted wildfire by targeting oak brush and mountain shrubs.
The overall goal for this project is to improve big game winter and transitional range on National Forest lands in order to help alleviate winter game damage on private lands.
In some years, game damage has been significant in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
Toni Toelle, the zone fuels specialist for the White River National Forest, said, “Ideal burning conditions require adequate light winds for smoke dispersion, with average fall temperatures and dry conditions”. She explained that this burn is a follow-up treatment to past mechanical fuels reduction work in the Aldrich Lakes area.
Burning will help to clean up the masticated fuels and stimulate a mosaic pattern of new growth in the forage and brush species. This project is part of a landscape scale treatment effort in the Milk Creek drainage with approximately 2,500 acres treated to date.
Smoke from the burn may be visible from various locations around the Meeker and Craig areas.
Most of the smoke will dissipate during the day, however, some nighttime smoke may remain in valley bottoms and drainages as temperatures drop, but that is expected to be of short duration.
This prescribed fire is in partnership with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, local Craig and Meeker chapters of the Habitat Partnership Program and local private land owners.
For more information please contact the Blanco Ranger District office at 970-878-4039.