Story by John Riley, MTN News
HELENA, Mont. – On Friday the U.S. Forest Service announced planned prescribed burns for the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest for fall and winter 2018.
Forest Service officials will begin conducting low-intensity burns to help clear debris, improve wildlife habitat and help invigorate soil health.
The burns are performed by Forest Service firefighting veterans who also use the manageable fires to teach the next generation of firefighters wildland fire behavior.
A prescribed burn will only be started as weather and fuel conditions allow.
Kathy Bushnell, public affairs officer with the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, said prescription burning is a great management tool for the forest.
“When coupled with some of the mechanical treatments we have going on with some of our projects it’s very effective in reducing that fuel loading and helping restore the forest health,” said Bushnell. “One way to look at it for people is prescribed burning is our controlled way of providing fire to a fire dependent ecosystem that helps with restoring that forest’s health.”
Prescribed burns also help to create natural barriers to prevent wildfires from spreading into populated area.
“We do look at these areas for these prescribed burns that are strategically based so that we can reduce the fuel loading because we do have a lot of dead and down fuel in our forests right now,” said Bushnell.
The public is advised to always report smoke in the forest if they don’t know the cause of the fire.
Information provided by the U.S. Forest Service on prescribed burning planned for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest:
- Helena and Ranger District
- Clancy/Unionville Vegetation Manipulation Project south of Helena. These units are located in the Grizzly Gulch area. These treatments have been designed to reduce the threat of large, high intensity wildfire and promote healthy forests and grasslands. With this prescribed burning it is expected that large volumes of smoke will be produced for short periods of time.
- The Jimtown Road corridor near York. This prescribed fire will be broadcast burning slash. These projects are part of the Jimtown Hazardous Fuels Project, and are designed to reduce the risk of high intensity wildfire in the area.
- The York/Nelson area northeast of Helena. These prescribed fire units are part of the Beaver Soup Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Project, and are designed to enhance wildlife habitat. Slash piles along the York/Nelson road are also planned to be burned this fall/winter.
- The north fork of Quartz Creek, near Clancy. Slash piles will be burned to remove fuels accumulated during Roadside Hazard Tree project activities.
- Slash piles located in the Warm Springs/Willard Creek area south of Montana City will be burned.
- Scattered slash piles created by firewood gathering activities throughout the District such as the Indian Flats, Favorite Gulch, Chessman Reservoir, Bear Gulch and Orofino Gulch areas. In addition, slash piles created during road maintenance in Hunters Gulch and the Chessman Reservoir area could be burned this fall/winter.
- Townsend Ranger District
- Harvest units in the Cabin Gulch Vegetation Project. Harvest units will be burned post-harvest to reduce fine fuels created by harvest activities, and create seed beds to promote regeneration of conifer. These units are located in the North Fork of Deep Creek and Cabin Gulch areas of the Big Belt Mountains east of Townsend.
- Prescribed fire units in the Pole Creek area of the Elkhorn Mountains are planned to be treated, these units are part of the 1988 Elkhorns Project and are designed to promote age class diversity and improve wildlife habitat by promoting age class and tree species diversity in homogeneous lodgepole pine stands.
- Slash piles created by the Holloway Blowdown cleanup effort. Piles will be burned to remove fuels accumulated during project activities. These piles are in Holloway Gulch of the Big Belt mountains.
- Scattered slash piles created by firewood gathering activities throughout the District may also be burned this fall and winter, which are mostly adjacent to main roads.
- Lincoln Ranger District
- The Helmville Face Wildlife Enhancement Project is located in the Ogden Mountain area. Multiple units are planned to be treated this fall, totaling 335 acres. This project is a joint effort between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Helena- Lewis and Clark National Forest and is intended to enhance big game forage by reintroducing fire into a historically fire dominated ecosystem.
- The burning in the Poorman Creek area will consist of Ethel units 22, 23 and Crater unit 1.Unit 22 is located in Long Gulch and totals 120 acres. Unit 23, located in Rochester Gulch, is comprised of approximately 540 acres and is also a joint project between the US Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to enhance big game habitat. Crater Unit 1 is located in the Crater Mountain area and is comprised of approximately 1101 acres. Treatment in the Crater Unit 1 area is intended to mitigate fuel hazards as well as bring back natural meadows to the area.
- We are also continuing to burn piles created from the Roadside Hazard Reduction Project and firewood cutting activity. Existing burn piles may be treated in the following areas: Flesher Pass, Stemple Pass, Fool Hen, Marsh Creek, Page Gulch, Crater Mountain, and South Fork of Poorman Creek. All of these piles are located next to roads throughout the Lincoln Ranger District.
- Belt Creek-White Sulphur Springs Ranger District
- Broadcast burning may occur in the Dry Fork of Belt Cr. drainage and Blankenship Gulch adjacent to Forest Road 120 and Forest Road 3302. The desired objectives are to reduce surface fuel loading and ladder fuels in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and maintain good egress in primary travel corridors. Broadcast* burning may also occur in Decker Gulch and Mass/Geiss Creeks for desired fuels reduction and range improvement. Pile burning operations will occur adjacent to Monarch to manage fuels in the WUI and in Blankenship Gulch. Smoke is likely to occur in Monarch, the lower Belt Creek drainage and Blankenship Gulch. Broadcast and pile burning operations will be conducted under good ventilation and dispersal conditions to minimize smoke impacts to the area.
- Judith-Musselshell Ranger District
- Prescribed burning operations may include pile burning associated with roadside hazard tree projects in the Upper Spring Creek area, South Fork of the Judith, and Holiday Camp on Forest Roads 274 and 487. Additional pile burning may be conducted at Crystal Lake in the Big Snowies to reduce fuels in and around the Crystal Lake Campground. Smoke may impact the Spring Ck. area and the Crystal Lake Canyon. Broadcast burning may include prescribed burning operations occurring in the Haymaker/Iron Springs area North of Two Dot, MT. Smoke may impact Haymaker Creek and adjoining drainages. Broadcast and pile burning operations will be conducted under good ventilation and dispersal conditions to minimize smoke impacts to the area.
- Rocky Mountain Ranger District
- Ford Creek Unit #1a is located north of the Benchmark Road, just west of the National Forest boundary. Prescribed fire has been applied to the majority of this unit over the past two years, with approximately 40 acres remaining for treatment this fall. Burning is also planned further west, along the Benchmark Road, near the South Fork Sun trailhead. The units planned for burning are Benchmark Units #1a and #1b. These two units are contiguous and total 236 acres.