Pile burning, herbicide placed at Grand Canyon’s North Rim; closure, reopening

GRAND CANYON, Arizona — The Grand Canyon National Park will be undergoing pile burning operations at the North Rim and applying herbicide along railroad tracks within Grand Canyon National Park. The pile burning is anticipated to take place over the next 30 days as weather and fuel moisture allow, while the herbicide is expected to be applied Thursday and Friday this week.

Pile burning

Fire managers will treat approximately 13 acres of hand piles composed of woody debris as weather conditions allow. These pile burn units are located in the North Rim developed area.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park remains closed to the public until May 15, when it re-opens for the summer season.

Prescribed fires play an important role in decreasing risks to life, resources, and property. Fire managers carefully plan prescribed fires, initiating them only under environmental conditions that are favorable to assuring firefighter and visitor safety and to achieving the desired objectives. Prescribed fire objectives include reducing accumulations of hazard fuels, maintaining the natural role of fire in a fire-adapted ecosystem, and protection of sensitive cultural and natural resources.

Smoke may be visible from various locations on the South Rim for a limited time after ignitions. Fire managers are working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Smoke Management Division to reduce and mitigate potential smoke impacts.

Plans for each burn unit contain a set of parameters which define the desired weather and fuel conditions under which a prescribed fire can be initiated. Prior to implementing the burns, fire managers will evaluate current conditions and will only begin ignition if the prescribed conditions are within those parameters.

Herbicide application

Grand Canyon Railway, in consultation with the National Park Service, will be applying herbicide to inhibit the growth of vegetation adjacent to the railroad tracks, lowering the risk of train wheel sparks igniting a fire. Once the treatment is completed, this area will also act as a fire break for any fires originating elsewhere in the park. In addition to reducing fire hazards, this herbicide application will aid in the battle against invasive plant species in the park.

The railroad tracks create an environment of disturbance that encourages the spread of invasive plants. Currently, more than 30 nonnative species are found in close proximity to the railroad tracks. This treatment will not only help reduce the number of invasive plants found in the area, but will also help reduce the transportation of seeds and plant parts that spread these species.

The herbicides being used for this project are Throttle and Landmark, which are broad spectrum herbicides. These herbicides works through inhibiting plant specific enzymes necessary for healthy plant growth.  These herbicides will kill live vegetation, will break down quickly once applied, and will provide pre-emergence control.  Throttle and Landmark are rated low in toxicity.

Weather permitting, the railroad tracks within the park will be treated on either March 25 or 26 using a 16-foot boom sprayer. The project will be paid for and implemented by Grand Canyon Railway. Pedestrian areas near the tracks will be appropriately signed to notify residents and visitors of the herbicide application.

In spring 2009, an environmental assessment was prepared for  implementation of the park’s exotic plant management plan. A finding of no significant impact was signed by the regional director in July 2009. The environmental assessment identifies the need to use an integrated approach to exotic plant management, which includes the use of herbicides. It also stresses the necessity for collaboration such as this joint effort between the park service and Grand Canyon Railway.

Resources

  • Grand Canyon National Park website
  • Contact: Lori Makarick, Vegetation Program Manager, at 928-638-7455 or Ken Stephenson with Grand Canyon Railroad at 928-635-5359

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