Forest – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com The most trusted source for news and information about Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:10:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 http://www.pagosasun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/cropped-sun-logo-512x512-1-32x32.jpg Forest – The Pagosa Springs SUN http://www.pagosasun.com 32 32 Firefighters continue monitoring Sand Creek Fire http://www.pagosasun.com/firefighters-continue-monitoring-sand-creek-fire/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:10:51 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206741 By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

The Sand Creek Fire, located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, in the Piedra Special Management Area, had burned 88 acres as of late Wednesday morning.

Firefighters are continuing to monitor the fire until they can safely engage it, a Wednesday update from the fire’s management team indicates, with the “dense layer of fallen trees and steep terrain, coupled with the slow movement of the fire” dictating modified firefighting tactics.

The update notes that, as of Wednesday, fire activity on the Sand Creek Fire “remains light to moderate as it creeps within thick slash. Light smoke is intermittently visible where heavy fuels smolder and burn away.”

On Tuesday, the report states, considerable personnel were released from the Sand Creek Fire to be available to assist in other areas of the southwest.

On Wednesday, crews were set to scout trails south and west of the fire for conditions that may necessitate additional firefighting resources, according to the update. A snowpack measuring station north of the Sand Creek Fire was slated to be inspected as part of further assessment and contingency plans. 

The update indicates that firefighters also planned to utilize unmanned aerial systems to monitor the fire’s progression Wednesday.

A forest closure remains in effect around the fire area. The full text and a map of the closure can be found at: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/closures/6790/.

The update also notes that a temporary flight restriction is in place over the Sand Creek Fire and reminds that wildfires are a “No Drone Zone.” 

“If you fly, we can’t. Every time a drone is spotted near the fire all aircraft are grounded until we can be sure the drone is clear of the area. For more information, visit http://knowbeforeyoufly.org,” the update states.

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Local fire groups outline conditions, ask for money http://www.pagosasun.com/local-fire-groups-outline-conditions-ask-for-money/ Thu, 02 Jul 2020 22:09:13 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206739 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Staff from Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP) and the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership (SJHFHP) outlined local fire dynamics to the county commissioners at their work session on June 16.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

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Tree watering necessary during drought conditions http://www.pagosasun.com/tree-watering-necessary-during-drought-conditions/ Tue, 30 Jun 2020 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206290 By Teddy Parker-Renga
Colorado State Forest Service

Despite occasional showers in certain areas of southern Colorado, persistent drought conditions have parched the soil over much of the southern part of the state, stressing even irrigated lawns and larger landscape trees. During these periods of drought, homeowners should consider supplemental watering to keep their trees healthy.

“Adequately watering your trees is the best way to ensure optimum growth and vigor during the summer months,” said Donna Davis, urban and community forestry specialist for the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS). “Drought-stressed trees become susceptible to root and branch die-back and subsequent insect and disease problems.”

All of southern Colorado is currently experiencing some form of drought, in many places “severe” and “extreme,” according to the latest data from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

The CSFS offers the following tips to keep trees healthy during summer drought:

• Mulch. Mulch is an inexpensive solution to retain soil moisture and save water. Apply 4 inches of organic mulch onto bare soil within 2 to 3 feet from the base of the trunk (removing any grass first, if necessary). Do not allow the mulch to directly contact the trunk. 

• Water a wide area. Tree root systems may spread much wider than the height of the tree, with most absorbing roots in the top foot of soil. Apply water to soak the entire area underneath the full span of a tree’s branches.

• Water slowly. To ensure soil penetration, use a deep root fork (inserted 8 inches or less), soaker hose on low setting or soft spray wand to apply water gradually to the full area.

• Keep the yard green. Trees located in irrigated lawns generally do not require additional water, as long as the area surrounding the tree receives adequate moisture. Conversely, a dry, yellowish yard means the roots of any trees present are also dry.

• Provide enough water. For trees 1-3 inches in diameter, apply 10 gallons of water for each inch of tree trunk diameter once a week. For medium-sized trees, those 4-9 inches in diameter, apply 10 gallons of water for each inch of trunk diameter three times a month. For larger trees over 10 inches in diameter, apply 15 gallons of water for each inch of trunk diameter twice a month.

• Focus on new and nonirrigated trees. Water newly planted trees and seedlings more frequently than once a week, following the rates listed above, as they have less-extensive root systems. To avoid stress during drought conditions, trees that do not receive water from sprinkler systems or irrigation can also benefit from additional water.

Visit csfs.colostate.edu for more tips on tree watering, planting and general care.

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Sand Creek Fire estimated size at 71 acres, closure order issued http://www.pagosasun.com/sand-creek-fire-estimated-size-at-71-acres-closure-order-issued/ Thu, 25 Jun 2020 21:00:14 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206292

SUN photo/Chris Mannara
Representatives from fire agencies across the country met at Cloman Park on June 23 to discuss the history and a plan to combat the Sand Creek Fire, which was recently upgraded from a Type 3 fire to a Type 2 fire. The fire was started by lightning on June 15 and is located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs in the Piedra Special Management Area. As of June 23, the fire was estimated at 65 acres.

By Chris Mannara
and Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

A fire located 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs is still burning slowly, according to a Wednesday morning email from the San Juan National Forest (SJNF).

The Sand Creek Fire was started by lightning on June 15 in the Piedra Special Management Area, according to the email.

As of Wednesday, the size of the fire is estimated at 71 acres, the SJNF email explains.

Dry lightning is possible today, leading to fire danger being considered extreme now, meaning any ignition has the potential to create more challenges for fire crews, according to the SJNF.

“With the rugged terrain and hazards posed by thousands of standing dead trees (snags), fire managers have not found many options for effective fire lines close to the current perimeter,” the email reads, adding that the threat to any structures or communities is very low at this time.

As of Wednesday morning, a Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire, the email explains.

The management team is staging at Cloman Park and the park is closed to the public during this time. 

The email also notes for the general public to watch out for any additional fire traffic on Piedra Road and U.S. 160.

Incident Commander Brad Pietruszka is quoted in the email as saying, “We appreciate the support of the community and the Pagosa Ranger District, and we especially appreciate the good discussions we have had about how to manage the risk this fire poses to our firefighters.”

Smoke from the fire is visible to the north from U.S. 160 between Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. The SJNF urges citizens to not report the smoke.

Forest closure

The portion of the SJNF near the Sand Creek Fire is now closed following a closure order signed by Acting Forest Supervisor Steven Hattenbach on June 23.

That closure prohibits “Going in or being upon all NFS lands within the area east of the Coldwater Trail (NFST 597) excluding the Coldwater Trail itself, south to its intersection with the Coldwater Stock Trail (NFST 598) excluding the Coldwater Stock Trail itself, north of the Coldwater Stock Trail east to its intersection with the Piedra River Trail (NFST 596) excluding the Piedra River Trail itself, north of the Piedra River Trail east to its intersection with the Lower Weminuche Trail (NFST 595) excluding the Lower Weminuche Trail itself, west of the Lower Weminuche Trail north to its intersection with the Little Sand Creek Trail (NFST 591) excluding the Little Sand Creek Trail itself, west of the Little Sand Creek Trail north to its intersection of the Mosca Road (NFSR 631), and south of the Mosca Road west to its intersection with the Coldwater Trail (NFST 597).”

It also prohibits being on the following roads and trails:

• Mosca Road (NFSR 631).

• Sand Creek Trail (NFST 593) south of the Mosca Road (NFSR 631) to its intersection with the Piedra River Trail (NFST 596).

• North Ridge Trail (NFST 594).

The order exempts persons with a Forest Service permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission, as well as any federal, state or local law enforcement officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force engaged in the performance of an official duty.

Violating the order, it states, “are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both.”

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Forest restoration work underway on Jackson Mountain http://www.pagosasun.com/forest-restoration-work-underway-on-jackson-mountain/ Wed, 24 Jun 2020 11:00:19 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206016 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Work to improve forest health on Jackson Mountain is currently underway and is expected to continue into the winter months.

Jackson Mountain is located on the east end of Archuleta County as you drive from town toward Wolf Creek Pass.

“The purpose of the work is to improve the resistance of forests on Jackson Mountain to drought, insects and wildfire and promote young aspen stands in areas where this tree species is in decline,” wrote Esther Godson, public affairs officer for the San Juan National Forest, in an email to The SUN.

Godson wrote that the work on Jackson Mountain is part of a stewardship contract awarded by the U.S. Forest Service to local contractor JR Ford and part of the work is being monitored by researchers from Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Mountain Studies Institute.

“In this case, we’re working in a forest that historically woulda been predominantly pine, but the white fir has taken it over, so we’re removing a lot of white fir just to give the pine a chance to come back,” Ford said in an interview Monday.

Ford added that the work will allow both pine trees and aspens to come back in the area.

Ford explained that the U.S. Forest Service has determined which trees stay and which get cut down and removed, which is different than similar projects he’s worked on in the past.

“When we were at Echo [Lake] they gave us a prescription and we were making the decision on the removal of trees. In this case, they’ve marked every tree they want kept,” he said.

Ford noted all the white fir and Douglas fir trees will go to a startup company based in Dolores that will ultimately use the trees to make plywood.

Ford explained that his company will take the pine trees to its sawmill.

He added that he was “shocked” by how many hikers, bikers and campers utilize Jackson Mountain and that there are many trails up there that aren’t legal.

“There’s a lot of trails up there that people other than the Forest Service have built without permission and have been there for years, and people are using them,” he said, adding, “When we’re actually working in those areas, are we blocking those trails? Yeah, you wouldn’t want to ride your bike through when we’re working. When we’re done you can ride through without any problem.”

Ford explained that they aren’t clear-cutting the forest, only taking out what Forest Service experts have determined should be removed to improve the overall health of the forest, though noted one area of the project currently looks pretty bare.

“On the very north end of the project, there was a high removal of white fir, so there weren’t many pine trees and there weren’t many Doug firs up there,” he said. “So, you have large open areas up there, but the only way you’re gonna get those other species to come back is to remove that white fir.”

Ford reported that, starting this week, the large piles of wood will begin to be chipped.

“Once the piles are chipped and we go back in and reseed the landing areas — that will, a year from now, that will look totally different,” he said.

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Personal-use firewood and rock permits offered with free-use permits http://www.pagosasun.com/personal-use-firewood-and-rock-permits-offered-with-free-use-permits/ Thu, 18 Jun 2020 21:00:00 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=206004 By Esther Godson
San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is extending its availability of free permits for personal-use firewood cutting to the general public through Sept. 30. In addition to its extension of the free-use firewood permits, the forest is also allowing visitors to prudently collect up to 250 pounds of rock under free-use conditions. 

Rock permits are required for 250 pounds of rock or more. The free-use permits are for personal use only and exclude commercial purposes. Forest users are asked to comply with normal permit requirements and Forest regulations, even when collecting forest products under the free-use allowance. 

These free-use permits are valid for cutting up to and a maximum of 10 cords of personal-use firewood. A cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. The authorization packets are limited to one per household and only individuals that are 18 years or older may participate in the free personal-use firewood program.

The Forest is providing free-use firewood authorization packets to the public in the following way:

• An individual can pick up an authorization packet at any one of the four national forest offices during regular business hours. A self-service table will be located near the front entrance at each office. Forest staff require that woodcutters leave contact information in the on-site drop box when picking up their packet.

Woodcutters must carry the authorization packet with them while cutting. The authorizations do not need to be attached to the load. Firewood cutters are also required to carry an ax or shovel and have their chain saw equipped with an approved spark arrester when cutting wood.

For forest visitors needing a permit to collect 250 pounds of rock or more, permit requests can be made by phone, email or standard mail. Those seeking rock permits should expect a two-week timeframe to complete the process, though access to email and a scanner will facilitate a faster turnaround.

All offices on the San Juan National Forest are conducting business and providing visitor services virtually. For specific forest information and permit guidelines, please contact Pagosa Ranger District at 264-2268.

For information on the San Juan National Forest, call 247-4874.

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Lightning ignites fires on Pagosa Ranger District http://www.pagosasun.com/lightning-ignites-fires-on-pagosa-ranger-district/ Thu, 18 Jun 2020 10:57:28 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=205900

SUN photo/Terri House
An air quality advisory was issued for portions of southwestern Colorado by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Wednesday morning through 9 a.m. today, which includes portions of Archuleta County. The smoke was due to two fires in Montezuma County and one in La Plata County.

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

Four small fires were started within the San Juan National Forest’s Pagosa Ranger District due to a lightning storm on June 13.

According to an email from San Juan National Forest Public Affairs Officer Esther Godson on Wednesday, the following days of warm and windy weather allowed the fires to be detected.

Two smaller fires are contained and controlled, according to Godson’s email.

Those fires, the Rito fire and Sheep Creek fire, one-tenth of an acre and one-half acre, were contained and controlled on June 16, according to Godson’s email.

The Rito fire was 7.5 miles east of Pagosa Springs behind the Mill Creek Ranch and is out, according to Godson’s email.

The Sheep Creek fire, 21 miles west of Pagosa Springs on the west side of the Piedra River from the Sheep Creek Trailhead, is contained and controlled, according to Godson.

Photo courtesy Casey Bristow
Smoke is visible from the Sand Creek fire, which was caused by a lightning storm on the afternoon on June 13. The fire, about 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs, is burning in the Little Sand burn scar in the Piedra Special Management Area. As of June 17, a wildland fire module was set to be flown into the Sand Bench area to assess containment options. The general public is asked to be aware of fire activity before recreating in the area. Smoke from the fire is expected to be visible from Piedra Road and Pagosa Springs.

The Plumtaw fire, which is about 5 acres, has been worked on by fire crews since June 15 to be contained, according to Godson’s email.

“Crews are utilizing hose lays and support from the Pagosa Springs Fire Protection District water tender to mop-up hot spots. The fire is expected to be controlled at the end of shift of the 17th. Smoke may still be visible today,” she wrote.

The Sand Creek fire, about 9.5 acres, is 21 miles northwest of Pagosa Springs and is burning in the Little Sand burn scar in the Piedra Special Management Area, Godson’s email notes.

 “Smokejumpers parachuted into the fire area on the 16th. After assessing the fire on the ground, the decision was made not to engage due to hazardous snags, heavy fuel loads, and difficult terrain,” her email reads. “A Type 1 helicopter will be utilized today to provide water drops on the fire. The smokejumpers will be extracted, and a wildland fire module will be flown into the Sand Bench area to assess containment options. The public is asked to be aware of fire activity before recreating in the Sand Creek area.”

Smoke from the Sand Creek fire will be visible during the duration of the incident, according to Godson’s email.

Smoke is expected to be visible from Piedra Road and Pagosa Springs, her email explains.

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High-country trails remain snowpacked, muddy http://www.pagosasun.com/high-country-trails-remain-snowpacked-muddy/ Sat, 06 Jun 2020 11:00:46 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=205063 By Esther Godson
San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest reminds visitors that many of our high-country trails are still snowpacked and muddy. Using high-country trails that are not dry enough for motorized and nonmotorized use results in braided trail systems, as well as damage to fragile tundra or wetlands. This damage creates more erosion by funneling water down trails and increasing sedimentation, impacting water quality.

Visitors are encouraged to use lower elevation trails. If you encounter variable trail conditions, turn around; do not widen or create new trails around areas like mud holes. If you must, go slowly through muddy sections or puddles. Stay the trail. When visiting the national forest, please follow “Leave No Trace” principals and to get the most out of your experience, visit Know Before You Go: https://www.fs.usda.gov/visit/know-before-you-go.

All offices on the San Juan National Forest are conducting business and providing visitor services virtually. Contact Pagosa Ranger District office for current trail conditions at 264-2268.

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San Juan National Forest to extend free personal-use firewood cutting http://www.pagosasun.com/san-juan-national-forest-to-extend-free-personal-use-firewood-cutting/ Fri, 05 Jun 2020 11:00:46 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=205061 By Esther Godson
San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is extending its availability of free permits for personal-use firewood cutting to the general public through June 14. The free-use permits are for personal use only and exclude the cutting of firewood for commercial purposes. 

Forest users are asked to comply with normal permit requirements and forest regulations, even when collecting forest products under the free-use allowance. Beginning Monday, June 15, free-use packets will no longer be valid and regular fuelwood permits will be available for purchase at district and forest offices across the San Juan National Forest.

These free-use permits are valid for cutting up to and a maximum of four cords of personal-use firewood. A cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. The authorization packets are limited to one per household and only individuals that are 18 years or older may participate in the free personal-use firewood program.

The forest is providing these authorization packets to the public in the following way:

• An individual can pick up an authorization packet at any one of the four national forest offices during regular business hours. A self-service table will be located near the front entrance at each office. Forest staff require that woodcutters leave contact information in the on-site drop box when picking up their packet.

Woodcutters must carry the authorization packet with them while cutting. The authorizations do not need to be attached to the load. Firewood cutters are also required to carry an ax or shovel and have their chain saw equipped with an approved spark arrester when cutting wood.

Offices on the San Juan National Forest are conducting business and providing visitor services virtually. For specific forest information and firewood cutting guidelines, please contact Pagosa Ranger District at 264-2268.

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Public hearing for oil and gas application set for June 24 http://www.pagosasun.com/public-hearing-for-oil-and-gas-application-set-for-june-24/ Thu, 04 Jun 2020 21:00:35 +0000 http://www.pagosasun.com/?p=205024 By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

A public hearing will be held on June 24 regarding an Archuleta County Minor Oil and Gas Facility Permit application for Catamount Energy.

The full version of this story is available in the print edition and e-edition of the Pagosa Springs SUN. Subscribe today by calling (970)264-2100 or click here.

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