Gila NF: Silver City RD Planning Fall Vegetation Work

Silver City, NM, September 16, 2019 — The Gila National Forest, Silver City Ranger District has several vegetation projects planned for the fall and winter months.  These projects are related to hazardous fuels reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, watershed function enhancement, and wildland-urban interface treatment.

The Jaybird Prescribed Fire is planned for the first available weather opportunity after October 1.  The 2,565-acre project is adjacent to NM Highway 15 and Meadow Creek.  This low intensity prescribed fire will treat critical Mexican-spotted Owl habitat by reducing the chances of high severity fire through a reduction in accumulated forest vegetation.  Land managers will factor in several variables including the dryness of the fuels and weather patterns to determine the appropriate time to begin ignitions.  Smoke is expected to settle in the upper Mimbres Valley and potentially impact NM Highway 15 and 35.  Visitors are asked to use caution if they see firefighters or signs related to prescribed fire.  The area around Meadow Creek Road will be closed to public use during the prescribed fire to protect public and firefighter safety.

Firefighters have already begun thinning vegetation around the Little Cherry Creek Ranch.  The project includes removing small-diameter trees and brush in order to reduce the probability of high-intensity fire around the private inholding.  The material will be piled and burned after one year of drying.  The project will continue, eventually treating the Little Cherry Creek Ranch and the Lockney inholding in order to conduct a large prescribed fire south of Black Peak to Twin Sisters.  This would help protect critical Mexican Spotted Owl habitat, improve watershed function, and preserve the remaining high altitude Mixed-conifer forest on the district.

Crews continue to thin piñon juniper woodlands in the Georgetown area.  The public is welcome to collect this wood with a wood permit.  Stop in the Gila National Forest office in Silver City or Mimbres for a wood permit and information about fuelwood collection on the Gila National Forest.  The project area in Georgetown will eventually have a prescribed fire to reduce accumulated slash from the chainsaw work.

The Silver City Ranger District continues to assess the Wildland Urban Interface around Silver City, Bayard, Arenas Valley, Pinos Altos, the Big Burro Mountains and other communities for potential vegetation work.  Forest and District fire personnel will be assisting Grant County and the State of New Mexico with their upcoming Community Wildfire Protection Plan revision in order to create a shared vision of wildfire protection in the community.

Prescribed fires are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems.  These fires mimic natural fires by reducing forest fuels, recycling nutrients and increasing habitat diversity.  Prescribed burns are designed to meet specific objectives, including providing community protection and promoting forest health.  Prescribed burns are always managed with firefighter and public safety as the first priority.

By adding the right fire to the landscape at the right place at the right time, controlled burns mitigate the risk of high-intensity wildfire, reduce the spread of insects and disease, improve habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, and promote the growth of healthy trees, wildflowers, and other plants. Smoke from the prescribed burn will be monitored to ensure that the New Mexico Environment Department’s Air Quality Bureau regulations are being met.  Smoke-sensitive individuals and those with respiratory or heart disease should take precautionary measures.  Air quality information and health protection measures are posted online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website:  https://nmtracking.org/fire.

For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/gila or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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