Mesa Verde Announces Prescribed Burns
Contact: Tessy Shirakawa, 970-529-4628
To decrease hazardous fuel accumulation and improve the conditions for native flora, Mesa Verde will conduct prescribed burns in early November, depending on weather and fuel conditions. The areas that are of primary concern are the open grassy areas that provide fine fuels that can quickly carry a fire toward more heavily forested areas and park structures. Many of the targeted burn areas contain invasive species, including smooth brome and cheatgrass that stifle the growth of native grasses and other native plants. Approximately 160 total acres are planned for ignition.
The first fire project is located adjacent to the Far View Lodge on Navajo Hill, between the Wetherill Road and the main Park Road. Approximately 45 acres are scheduled to burn, to reduce fine fuels such as leaf litter and duff beneath gambel oak shrub canopy, and therefore lessen the risk of a dangerous crown fire. A surface fire such as this will not carry enough to preheat and dry out the gambel oak canopy, enabling the fire to climb into the relatively volatile crown of the oak brush adjacent to lodging facilities.
The second prescribed fire project is planned for approximately 109 acres in the southern portion of the Morefield Campground, adjacent to the park entrance road. The purpose is to reduce the fine fuels and oak regeneration adjacent to campground facilities. In part of the burn unit, this project also will target smooth brome, a non-native invasive grass, thereby improving the overall vigor of native grasses and forbs. There will be short-term impacts to native plants, but they will ultimately be favored by the elimination of their non-native competitors. In the spring, sprouting smooth brome shoots will be sprayed with a series of three herbicide treatments over the course of one year. Later, the sprayed areas will be seeded with a mixture of native grasses.
The third project is approximately 7 acres on Chapin Mesa, one mile north of park headquarters. Two small burn blocks are planned to eliminate invasive cheatgrass within the boundaries of the 2002 Long fire. This research burn is one of several planned to determine the best time of year, during the plant’s short lifecycle, when it is most susceptible to fire. Future small burns are planned in early, mid, and late spring, conditions permitting.
These prescribed burns will only take place if and when optimum weather, fuel moisture, and smoke dispersal parameters are met. For further information concerning the planned prescribed fire activities, please contact Allan Farnsworth, Fire Management Officer (970-529-5049) or Brad Harris, Fuels Specialist (970-529-5066).
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Did You Know?
Ninety percent of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings contain 10 rooms or less. One-third have only one or two rooms. This should help to put the more famous cliff dwellings of Cliff Palace (150 rooms), Long House (150 rooms), Spruce Tree House (130 rooms), and Balcony House (40 rooms) into perspective.