December 13, 2006 - Fall burning accomplishments
During the months of October and November, Klamath Basin's fire crews applied prescribed fire to more than 1,120 acres of refuge lands. Fire is utilized on wildlife refuges to reduce hazardous accumulations of vegetation, remove vegetative debris from farming operations, control invasive weeds and aid in preparing grounds for maintenance and infrastructure projects. The various burns were conducted intermittently as weather permitted at Bear Valley, Lower Klamath, Tule Lake and Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuges.
The burns at Bear Valley are part of an on going hazardous fuels reduction effort implemented in 2002. More than two-thirds of the refuge's lands have experienced some sort of fuels reduction through timber sales, hand thinning and/or slashbusting. One step in the fuels reduction process is further debris removal through prescribed fire. Fire not only reduces the amount of vegetation present, it returns nutrients and key growth elements to the soil, in turn encouraging new, healthy growth. Fire also helps establish a diversity in the type, amount and size of habitat available to Bear Valley's seasonal inhabitants, such as bald eagles. In all, fire managers treated over 200 acres in different sections of the refuge. Additional burns are planned for 2007.
On Lower Klamath and Tule Lake refuges, fire was used this past fall to prepare harvested farm fields for winter flooding and maintenance project preparation. Fields are seasonally flooded, providing resting areas for migrating waterfowl and hunting opportunities for sportsmen. Fire aids in removing vegetative debris from those fields and prepares the grounds for planting next season. Fire is also used to remove weeds and overgrown vegetation in the path of equipment building dikes and levies for new flood fallow units (large swaths of farmland are flooded to provide seasonal bird habitat all the while returning organic nutrients to those fields which will be farmed in the future).
A hand thinning project started in the summer of 2005 to remove thick, overgrown clumps of trees near refuge headquarters was completed with the application of fire to remove debris piles at Klamath Marsh refuge in mid November. The project thinned a small five acre stand of ponderosa pines, re-opening the tree canopy, which in turn provides more light to the forest floor and promotes healthier tree growth by reducing competition. Crews cut and piled trees, which were later burned when safer conditions permitted the use of fire to remove them.
The Division of Fire Management anticipates starting its winter/spring burning efforts as early as January, weather depending. The program generally begins its annual spring leaseland burning as early as the end of February or when burn requests start arriving. March and April are often the busiest in terms of daily burning for farm/planting preparation.