Federal forest managers to burn 30,000 acres
Federal agencies plan to burn more than 30,000 acres of local public forest and brush lands this fall as part of an ongoing effort to reintroduce fire back into the ecosystem, albeit under controlled burning conditions.
The annual prescribed burning is intended to improve forest health and wildlife habitat while reducing the potential for catastrophic summer wildfires that may threaten homes in rural areas.
Roughly 20,000 acres will be burned on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District this fall, similar to what the district burned last autumn, according to spokesman Jim Whittington. Although the precise amount to be burned in the district is still being fine-tuned, the prescription employed will also include both pile burning of woody debris and under-burning, both methods used last year, he said.
Often done in the fall, under-burning is a low-intensity ground fire intended to replicate a natural wildfire. Under-burning is intended to remove small trees and brush while not harming larger trees. As the name implies, pile burning is simply burning piles of debris that have been stacked earlier in the year and covered by a waterproof material.
In the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, a little more than 10,000 acres are slated for burning, according to spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons.
That includes burning some 7,700 acres in the Wild River Ranger District, 3,100 acres in the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District, 1,900 acres in the High Cascades Ranger District and slightly less than 200 acres total in the Gold Beach and Powers ranger district, she said. Most of the planned fall burns in the forest involve burn piles although several hundred acres of under-burning is planned, she said.
To protect air quality during the burning periods, the agencies coordinate their efforts with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the National Weather Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Prescribed burning is permitted only on days when conditions indicate the fire will burn safely while allowing the smoke to blow away from populated areas.
In addition to reducing the threat of a catastrophic fire, the prescribed burns return nutrients to the soil, reduce risk of insect and disease outbreaks and create better wildlife habitat, officials said.
The goal is to burn as much of it as possible this fall, but how much depends on the weather, they noted.
Firefighters and fire suppression vehicles will be on hand in the event they are needed.
For a daily updated recording of prescribed burning on the Medford BLM District or the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, call 541-618-2354 or 800-267-3126.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.