Spring burn planned at Bass Creek Recreation Area | Local News

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Ravalli Republic

Bitterroot National Forest is advising horseback riders, hikers and other recreation enthusiasts that a prescribed burn is scheduled for next week in the Bass Creek Recreation Area northwest of Stevensville.

Pending favorable conditions, the 620-acre burn could begin as early as Wednesday, April 6, and will temporarily affect some roads and trails in the recreation area for two to three days.

To ensure visitor safety, the area will be closed to the public during active burning and monitoring operations. The closure includes the popular Larry Creek Trails and Horse Trailer Parking Lot, Bass Creek Nature and Fitness Trails, and Bass Creek Trail #4 and Trailhead.

Forestry officials say the closure is necessary because firefighters and engines will be working in the area, and many roads and trails used as control lines could be temporarily impacted by low-level fires and smoke. The timing of the burn will depend on favorable weather conditions. Fire managers plan to complete the burn as quickly as possible to limit impacts to recreational users and the general public.

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“The reason for closing the area is to keep the many visitors to Bass Creek safe,” said Stevensville District Ranger Steve Brown. “We hope to reopen the trails and other areas in a few days, following the fire.”

Smoke will likely be visible from US Highway 93. Combustion will only be ignited if operational safety, fuel moisture, weather and air quality parameters can be achieved. Fire crews will monitor the burn after ignition to ensure it remains within prescribed limits until it is declared extinct.

Roads in the area will be marked and local residents who have requested advance notification will be contacted prior to the burn. Spring prescribed fire activities normally take place from March to May and burning is highly dependent on weather and fuels. A mosaic pattern of burned and unburned areas will remain after treatments.

In 2013, a 700-acre thinning operation took place in the recreation area to reduce hazardous fuels and fire hazards created by dead, dying, and diseased trees affected by mountain pine beetles. Besides improving the overall health of the forest, the project has also saved and protected many areas of distinctive tall ponderosa pines.

Last spring, firefighters completed a 250-acre burn operation in the recreation area. Underburning, a type of prescribed fire treatment, ignites vegetation under the canopy or in open grassy meadows and focuses on burning surface fuels such as pine needles and dead vegetation.

Low-intensity prescribed burns serve several purposes, including:

• Maintain forest health and ecosystem restoration

• Improve wildlife habitat — many plants respond favorably to fire by providing new shoots of food for wildlife.

• Reduce the potential for large, high intensity forest fires by reducing the amount of downed fuel to be burned.

• Post-harvest slash treatment — reduces residual slash created by thinning operations.

For more information or to be placed on a pre-burn notification list, contact the Stevensville Ranger District at 406-777-5461. For burn updates, maps and photos of treatment areas, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/8024/ or the Discover Bitterroot National Forest Facebook page www.facebook.com/DiscoverBitterrootNF.

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