Cascade crest forests could be prescribed burn areas

Shadow Lake firePhoto Courtesy USFS
Motorists were warned to be cautious and expect smoke on the highways when the Shadow Lake wildfire was burning across 6,700 hundreds of the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests in September of 2011.

The Willamette and Deschutes National Forests are looking for comments from the public on a proposal to use prescribed fire in portions of the Mt. Washington and Three Sisters Wildernesses. Officials say the prescribed burns would restore more natural vegetation patterns, reduce the need for fire suppression actions that negatively affect the wilderness, reduce risk to firefighters, and restore a more natural role for fire in the Wilderness.

There are two broad geographic areas where prescribed burns are being considered; the area located just west and south of Scott Mountain in Mt. Washington Wilderness (Willamette NF) and the area west of Todd Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness (Deschutes NF).
Wilderness managers believe this project is needed because the historically more open and patchy Cascade crest forests have become more continuously and densely vegetated. Under the proposal, prescribed fires would create multiple burned openings ranging from tens to hundreds of acres in size. The presence of the burned patches would break up the continuous vegetation, potentially slowing the progress of some fires, reducing the need for suppression actions like building fire lines and fuel breaks, and providing safer places from which firefighters could operate if burning out and other indirect fire suppression techniques were needed.
Currently, once a lightning fire begins, winds often drive the flames through the continuous vegetation and out of the wilderness, threatening buildings, resorts, wildlife, timber and other resources. Managers are generally compelled to suppress these fires and thus limit the fire’s ability to play its natural role within the Wilderness. Managers believe that they can better meet the goals of the 1964 Wilderness Act by implementing this proposal.
To comment, go to: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/89574_FSPLT2_293944.pdf; comments are requested by February 15, 2013 to: comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes-sisters@fs.fed.us. Calls about the proposed activity can be addressed to Geoff Babb at 541-383-5521. More information is available on the web at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/willamette/rxfire-wild.

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