Letter to the Editor: Forest Service supervisor speaks to concerns over recent burn affecting Bryce Canyon City

Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News

LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Angelita S. Bulletts, forest supervisor, Dixie National Forest, regarding early June 2015 prescribed burn that generated heavy smoke and community concerns, reported here: Smoke from Rx burn chokes residents, tourism; Bryce Canyon National Park.


OPINION – Deciding whether or not to conduct a planned prescribed burn is not an easy decision, and it all comes down to risk management. Should the Forest Service conduct burning operations to reduce current and future wildfire risks? Should the Forest Service conduct burning operations at less than ideal conditions, or should we do nothing at all and hope that it is sufficient management?

Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News
Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News

Wildfire knows no boundaries. The Forest Service evaluates the risk with a broad perspective for both planned and unplanned ignitions while considering the people we serve and the landscapes we protect. We will not take unnecessary risk, nor do we want to transfer that risk to our neighbors, partners or to future generations.

As the Forest Supervisor, I have both professional and personal connections to this Forest. I grew up here exploring and utilizing the abundant resources the Dixie National Forest offers, sustaining my livelihood, similar to many people in the communities near the Forest. What is at risk? The lives and livelihoods of these communities and the health of the forest they depend upon.

Historically, fire on forested landscapes was a part of the ecological process, particularly for Ponderosa pine vegetation. In conducting prescribed fire treatments, the Forest is striving to meet resource objectives by reintroducing fire into some areas. These objectives are evaluated through a public process and are grounded in science.

The challenge is not typically in the science, but rather, it is in the human element. How does the Forest Service best balance and manage risk to people, while managing for forest health? Smoke is one of the greatest impacts we have on people, communities and businesses when we ignite a prescribed burn. No one wants to breathe smoke let alone sleep, work, or vacation in it.

Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News
Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News

In order to manage the duration of the smoke impacts that prescribed burns have on local communities, the Forest decided to utilize a helicopter to ignite portions of prescribed burn units which reduced the time to burn the area. By using a helicopter, fire and fuels management personnel were able to treat approximately 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in one day in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City.

Under similar conditions, if completed by ground crews this could have taken 10 days. This significantly reduced the duration of smoke impacts to the communities.

Smoke generated from the Dave’s Hollow prescribed burning operation was particularly heavy, especially through the evening of June 3rd and into the morning of June 4th. The local residences, vacationing public and businesses in Bryce Canyon City and the Bryce Valley communities took the brunt of the smoke impacts.

I want to thank the communities, local elected officials, businesses and Bryce Canyon National Park for your patience and support in the ignition of the Dave’s Hollow prescribed fire. Thank you for dealing with the effects of the smoke so that Forest employees and partners could work toward reducing wildfire risk, improving forest health and taking significant steps toward providing protection for an area economically important to the region.

Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News
Forest Service treats 2,000 acres with prescribed fire in the Dave’s Hollow area near Bryce Canyon City, Utah, June 3-4, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Dixie National Forest, St. George News

As the Dixie National Forest Supervisor, I will continue to strive to build stronger working relationships with the communities. This sentiment is also reflected in the outstanding and hardworking employees that are dedicated to supporting wildland fire management and to improving the health of the Forest.

I am encouraged and committed to the continuous improvements we are making across the landscape. These improvements will provide long lasting value to the people we serve.

I will continue to make proactive decisions for the Dixie National Forest, while working together with our neighbors to sustain for the forest health, diversity and productivity that establish resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities.

Submitted by Angelita S. Bulletts, forest supervisor, Dixie National Forest

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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8 Comments

  • native born new mexican June 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Controlled burns which quickly get out of control and always have some type of unintended consequences are not the answer. Reasonable logging and livestock grazing are. You and your employees are full of book learning with no common
    sense and no real respect for the rights and needs of the people who live and work in the area. You burn usable timber and grass. You close roads. You fence off streams. You make no touch wilderness areas which are nothing but huge fire traps full of wind fall and over crowded trees. Now your policy states that people can’t take pictures in the forest without paying a fee ($1000.00?) if they sell that photo for money. You let bark beetles destroy whole forests full of trees. I know first hand about out of control, controlled burns. I don’t trust what you have to say because I have seen and lived with the results of your actions.

    • fun bag June 18, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Obamas gonna take ur guns!!!

      • native born new mexican June 18, 2015 at 2:22 pm

        That’s right he is, along with my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Want to share a jail cell with me? I get the bottom bunk and you better not snore.

        • fun bag June 18, 2015 at 3:35 pm

          it’s just funny how you thing private resource extraction operations are just gonna go in and magically solve all the issues. Have they ever before? They’re only motivation is to extract every dollar they can. Forest service sucks, but probably private interests are worse. You talk about it like its black and white…

  • fun bag June 18, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    “You let bark beetles destroy whole forests full of trees.”

    i think ur beyond hope NEW MEXICAN,,, i’m sure the bark beetles are some type of liberal U.N. AGENDA 21 conspiracy, right?

  • hb bev June 19, 2015 at 9:28 am

    We had very little snow this winter. Why couldn’t this be done when everyone was still indoors and Bryce Canyon had few visitors???

    • JKJenn June 20, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      I was a visitor to the BCNP in February and they were doing controlled burns within the park in February.

  • Brian June 22, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I was just on Cedar Mountain, and there are burn piles and log decks rotting all over the place. It would have been easier just to stack up piles of tax payer dollars and burn them directly. How to destroy the forest and the local economy in 6 easy steps. 1) Don’t spray for beetles (because they have rights, too, you know). 2) When the trees inevitably die, refuse to allow any logging which will drive all of the logging companies to Montana. 3) Realize you’ve created the biggest fire hazard in history, and pay millions and millions in labor to cut down the trees, stack the logs into decks, and burn the rest. 4) Let the log decks sit for years until they’re of no value 5) Pretend to have an auction. 6) Be shocked that no one bid on the log decks (they’re all still there a year later). We need a law that 100% of forest service personnel have to grow up within 100 miles of the forest they’re managing.

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