Oak Ridge prescribed burn planned near Meeker in Sept.

MEEKER — The Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division of Wildlife are planning a 766-acre prescribed burn to improve wildlife habitat in the Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area near Meeker this month.
The fire could be ignited in early September if weather conditions are favorable for the burn. The burn is planned in the Seeley Unit of the Oak Ridge State Wildlife Area, about 10 miles southeast of Meeker and just north of Rio Blanco County Road 8.
Burning the oak brush and other mountain shrub species in the area will improve wildlife habitat by providing younger and more nutritious browse. The resulting mix of burned and unburned areas is also favored by most bird and mammal species that live in this area. Resource managers hope this improved habitat will alleviate some of the deer and elk use on nearby private lands. The burn will also temporarily reduce the possibility of a larger wildland fire occurring in the area for a period of five to 10 years.
“We are restoring fire’s benefits to the ecosystem in a very careful and controlled way,” said BLM White River Field Manager Kent Walter.
The recent 971-acre Jordan Fire seven miles northwest of Meeker created similar benefits for wildlife and fuel reduction. That fire was started naturally by lightning Aug. 25. Fire managers allowed the fire to burn in the rugged Windy Gulch Wilderness Study Area while suppressing it on its east side to reduce risk to private property.
The Oak Ridge Prescribed Fire involves a number of agencies and organizations including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Yampa/White River HPP, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Division of Wildlife. If this year’s project is successful, burning could continue for many years to come to improve wildlife habitat in the area.
The project is expected to take four or five days and smoke will be visible from Meeker during that time. All required planning documents have been obtained including Colorado State Air Pollution Division smoke permits.