Prescribed burns in area successful

While several hundred acres of controlled burns in the Manti-La Sal National Forest may have brought smoky conditions to Monticello in the past week, they are also likely to control the risk of wildfire.

Officials in charge of the Shingle Mill Prescribed Burn took advantage of unseasonably warm and dry late-fall conditions to extend the prescribed burn season into early December.

There were four days of pile burning in November and then four days of broadcast burning in the past week.

Project manager Mark Atwood reports that the recent four days of controlled burns met the objectives “of having a low intensity fire clean up the forest floor and remove a build-up of branches, needles and leaves.”

In total, several hundred acres of controlled burns were lit to burn the built-up understory fuels of land that includes oak brush and ponderosa pine on the eastern slopes of the Abajo Mountains.

Atwood reports that there were “zero control problems” with the burns on the ground.  While the smoke dissipated in the air during the daylight hours, the smoke settled over Monticello during some of the evening and overnight hours.  The smoke was anticipated as part of the project.

Atwood said he was pleased with the conditions that allowed the extended controlled burn and added, “In some regards we are setting records as far as the number of days of implementation in the fall. We normally don’t get these opportunities in the fall like we have this year.”

Officials state that the effects of the burn will be to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.  The Shingle Mill project impacts nearly 3,000 acres in the watersheds in South Creek, Bull Hollow, Verdure and Monticello.  

The project also included burning large piles near the communications towers on Abajo Peak.

Officials state that the project will also improve the habitat and forage important for wildlife such as mule deer, elk, and wild turkeys.

Other fire management efforts include an effort to reseed the burn scar on the Pack Creek Ranch fire.

In November, the Forest Service, Utah Conservation Corps, Rim to Rim Restoration, and locals from Moab and Pack Creek Ranch worked together to seed 35 acres in the Pack Creek burn area. A horse packed seed up to the area and 30 people hand broadcast and raked in a mix of native grasses and forbs. 

Other partners include the Canyonlands Natural History Association, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The Pack Creek fire has had a tremendous impact on the community and the landscape. It says a lot about Southeast Utah when we respond together with good deeds and great concern. Thank you to our partners and volunteers, and the community as a whole for your exceptional support,” says Michael Engelhart, District Ranger of the Moab and Monticello Ranger District.

The Pack Creek fire started on June 9, 2021 and burned approximately 9,000 acres. The Pack Creek fire was caused by an abandoned campfire illegally constructed within the Pack Creek Day Use Area. 

The investigation is ongoing and the case remains unsolved. Please remember to follow campfire safety etiquette, fire restrictions and regulations, and to never leave a campfire unattended at any time of the year.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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