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Manual Hazardous Fuels Reduction Projects to Begin at Grand Canyon

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Date: December 9, 2010
Contact: Shannan Marcak, 928-638-7958

Grand Canyon, Ariz. -- In accordance with Grand Canyon National Park's 2010 Fire Management Plan (FMP) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), park fire managers will begin to expand the use of non-fire treatments to reduce hazardous fuels in the park's wildland-urban interface.

Two manual thinning projects are planned for this winter. Chainsaws will be used to remove limbs and small diameter trees and mechanical "chippers" which will be used to chop the woody debris into mulch and ground cover, allowing the nutrients to more quickly break down and return to the soil.

The purpose of these thinning projects is to safely create areas of defensible space that will aide in the protection of human life, structures and infrastructure in the event of a wildfire in the vicinity of the park's developed areas. Thinning and limbing trees to open the canopy, and removing accumulations of dead and down fuels will help create and maintain defensible space.

The first project is expected to begin within the next 30 days, weather permitting, and will be located in the Market Plaza area. The Market Plaza Thinning Unit is approximately 31 acres in size and is bounded by Village Loop Drive to the north, Zuni Way to the west, Market Plaza Road to the south, and a social trail to the east. Slash (debris) from the thinning operations will be handled in several ways. Some slash will be piled, dried and burned under the existing South Rim Prescribed Fire Piles Plan; some will be chipped and used in the immediate vicinity to repair erosion caused by social trailing; some will be chipped and scattered away from buildings and infrastructure; and the remainder will be removed. The Market Plaza Thinning Project is expected to last for up to 30 days depending on weather conditions.

The second project will be initiated after the Market Plaza project is completed and will be located near the Grand Canyon School. The School Thinning Unit is approximately 48 acres in size and is bounded by Boulder Street to the north, Center Road to the east, and Albright Avenue to the south and west. Slash from this thinning project will be handled in three ways. Some slash will be piled, dried and burned; some will be chipped and scattered away from buildings and infrastructure; and the remainder will be removed. The School Thinning Project is expected to take up to 45 days depending on weather conditions.

These thinning projects will ultimately result in a raised and more open tree canopy around the developed areas, as well as a reduction in dead and down fuels, all of which, in the event of a wildfire, will inhibit the spread of fire and the likelihood of catastrophic fire behavior. Standards for sizes and amounts of fuels to be removed during these projects were derived from the 2000 National Fire Plan, 2010 FMP EIS, 2006 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code, and recommendations and concurrence from the Grand Canyon Inter-Disciplinary Team.  

For additional information about this thinning project, please call Grand Canyon's South District Fire Management Officer Arthur Gonzales at 928-638-7947. For more on Grand Canyon National Park's Fire Management Program, please visit the park's web site at http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/firemanagement.htm.


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