Zion National Park plans 5 burns after above-average rainy season

Firefighter conducting a prescribed burn | Stock image, St. George News

ZION NATIONAL PARK — Zion National Park plans to conduct the first of a series of five small prescribed burns Monday in Zion Canyon provided weather and fuel conditions are suitable and firefighters are available to manage the burns.

This 2013 photo shows a hillside in Zion National Park with cheatgrass. Zion National Park, Utah, August 20, 2013 | Photo by Alissa Walker/Flickr Creative Commons; St. George News
This 2013 photo shows a hillside in Zion National Park with cheatgrass. Zion National Park, Utah, August 20, 2013 | Photo by Alissa Walker/Flickr Creative Commons; St. George News

The five burns will be done in the vicinity of Zion Lodge and near the main park visitor center.

The primary objective of the prescribed burns is to reduce the amount of exotic vegetation and its associated fire hazard. In doing so, the park can provide safety to park visitors, staff and park infrastructure, while simultaneously restoring native perennial grasses.

Short-term impacts from these prescribed burns may include smoky conditions and temporary traffic and trail control measures in the vicinity of the burns.

In recent years, Zion Canyon has seen a number of exotic annual grasses (mainly cheatgrass and ripgut brome) take over and outcompete the native perennial grasses that once covered the area.

This spring the national park received above-average precipitation which caused an abundant crop of these exotics. Because these fine, flashy exotic greases cure late in the spring, they represent a considerable fire danger throughout the summer. The reduction of exotic grasses by prescribed fire will help to reduce the fire danger in Zion Canyon and also provide the native grasses an opportunity to re-establish themselves.

The goal of the prescribed fire program in Zion National Park is to use management-ignited prescribed fire, where appropriate, for the restoration of fire-dependent ecosystems and species specific resource management goals.

Prescribed fire projects are to be conducted in a manner consistent with land and resource management plans, public health considerations and approved prescribed fire plans. The policy of using fire as a tool will help decrease risks to life, property and resources and will help perpetuate the natural resource values for which Zion National Park was established.

For more information about this or other prescribed fire projects in Zion, telephone 435-772-7811 or visit the park’s fire management Web page.

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