CEDAR CITY — Prescribed burns continue throughout Utah, with a project south of Beaver that ended Sunday.

Fishlake National Forest conducts prescribed burns south of Beaver, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

The Fishlake National Forest completed the South Beaver Prescribed fire project in the South Creek area north of state Route 153, burning 3,370 acres — over 5.25 square miles — of mixed conifer, quaking aspen, Gamble oak, pinyon pine and juniper trees at various elevations. The area was treated in a mosaic checkerboard-like pattern using some hand ignitions, said Naomi Gordon, Fishlake’s public affairs officer.

“This will improve the health and vigor of vegetative species in the area, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce the risk of wildfires,” she said via email, adding that previous projects with a similar composition of plants have done so.

The project aims to reduce dead and down fuel loads, as fire exclusion has left an abundance in the area over time, increasing wildfire risk, the Forest Service reported in a news release.

While wildfires can have devastating impacts on communities, “not all fire is bad,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s website.

“Fire plays a natural and necessary role in many landscapes,” the website states. “Periodic low-intensity fires speed up the process of forest decomposition, create open patches for new plants to grow, improve habitat and food for animals and deliver nutrients to the plants that survive. Fuels management builds wildfire resilience by reducing small trees, brush, dead branches, and limbs (called ladder fuels) which makes it less likely that future wildfires will torch an entire landscape.”

This map shows the areas impacted by the South Beaver Prescribed Fire project | Image courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

The West’s forests evolved with frequent, lower-severity fires. Burning must occur in the “right place and right time” to benefit the environment, according to The Nature Conservancy. Prescribed burns can be used to support forest health as part of specifically tailored plans developed for individual forests in conjunction with other management practices, like reforestation, watershed protection or thinning.

“Indigenous Peoples tended Western forests using intentional fires and lived productively with fires caused by lightning strikes and other natural phenomena for millennia” the nonprofit reports.” Now, it’s time to elevate the value of these practices and expand the safe use of fire by Indigenous and non-Indigenous practitioners.”

Additionally, wildfire suppression can be costly, representing the largest expenditure in the Department of the Interior’s wildland management program’s annual budget. However, the department states that fuel management can decrease wildfire intensity while making it easier to control with fewer resources.

“This makes fuels management one of the most effective means to manage wildfire safely and efficiently,” the department states.

Other areas are also undergoing prescribed burns or have plans for burns in the future. For Instance, the Dixie National Forest’s Cedar City Ranger District has conducted burns in Garfield and Kane counties near the communities of Duck Creek Village and Mammoth Creek. These could continue until June 15, depending on weather conditions and the moisture content of live plants and dead biomass, St. George News reported.

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