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?
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.
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.
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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