The Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit plans to conduct prescribed burns in the coming weeks on White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands in Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield and Mesa counties.

Last spring, the same unit completed more than 3,600 acres of prescribed burns on BLM and White River National Forest lands, according to a news release.

“As an interagency unit, we continue to collectively focus on areas where we can reduce fuel loading and improve wildlife habitat,” said Lisa Stoeffler, deputy supervisor for the White River forest. “Prescribed burning is a cost-effective and efficient way to target these areas for long-term benefits.” 

Larry Sandoval, field manager for the BLM Colorado River Valley, added: “Prescribed fires are an important tool that land managers can use to create fuel breaks that can make fire-suppression efforts more effective and reduce risk to firefighters and nearby communities.” 

The prescribed burns will only be ignited if weather and natural fuel conditions are favorable, the release states.

Land managers conduct prescribed fires to improve habitat for big game and other native wildlife. In addition, the projects have the effect of reducing backcountry fuels, lessening the potential growth and severity of future wildfires. 

During a prescribed burn, low-intensity fire consumes overgrown fuels while promoting suckering and sprouting of nutrient-rich vegetation. This fall’s potential prescribed burn locations include:

  • Braderich, Aspen/Sopris Ranger District, Pitkin County: Up to 500 acres, 14 miles south of Carbondale and four miles west of Redstone.
  • Cattle Creek, Aspen/Sopris Ranger District, Eagle County: Up to 2,000 acres eight miles north of Basalt and 12 miles south of Gypsum.
  • Cottonwood Creek, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Eagle County: Up to 472 acres, three miles northwest of Eagle and six miles northeast of Gypsum.
  • Sheep Gulch, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Eagle County: Up to 238 acres, four miles northwest of Gypsum.
  • June Creek, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Garfield County: Up to 727 acres, 11 miles south of Silt.
  • Roan Plateau, BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, Garfield County: Up to 846 acres, seven miles northwest of Rifle.

Two other prescribed fires are planned for Mesa County.

“We will only ignite these prescribed fires if conditions are conducive for safe, effective burns, as well as for good smoke dispersal away from nearby communities,” said Lathan Johnson, fuels specialist for the Upper Colorado River fire management unit.

Smoke may be seen from communities and roads. Smoke should dissipate during the day, but may remain on the valley floors as temperatures drop. Fire managers have obtained permits from the state for each project, the release says.