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With 2,100 Acres Burned In Piute County, Officials Continuing In The Effort To Restore Aspen Groves

 

2,100 acres of South Monroe Mountain burned Wednesday and Thursday in Piute County, but even after the flames are snuffed out, the work is continuing in the effort to restore aspen groves in the area.

After years of planning and studying, prescribed burns in Fishlake National Forest are creating what will soon be a whole new forest.

According to Linda Chappell, the acting fire-use and fuels program manager with the Forest Service, researchers have been studying the aspen growth in the area for years. Chappell says aspens have a lifespan of about 80-100 years, but it’s been about 150 years since a fire cleared through the area, so many of the aspens are very old.

Chappell says it’s time to get fire back into the ecosystem so new trees can grow.

Jason Kling, the Richfield District Ranger says there’s enough work to be done on the Monroe to keep them busy for several years to come.

Kling says he sees a lot of benefits to the prescribed fires. Not only is it healthy for the ecosystem, but it’s also healthy for the taxpayers’ pocketbook.

If a wildfire were to spark in the same area and burn an acre, it would cost a couple thousand dollars to fight.

But with a prescribed burn, the cost is more around $100 per acre.

“By putting money here, we’re making a big difference” Kling says.

And a big difference is also made for wildlife according to Gary Bezzant, the habitat program manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Bezzant says Elk love coming in after a fire has gone through an area, because of all the fresh–and nutritious–aspen trees sprouting up from the root system. But with the goal to restore a large population of aspen, they have to find the right size of area to burn, so the Elk can’t come in and just eat all the new growth.

Kling says it only takes about two weeks for the aspens to grow back several inches tall.

An area with a prescribed burn from two years ago on another part of the mountain range now has aspens over six feet tall. Researchers are watching the regrowth to see how the forest changes and plan future burns based on how the ecosystem responds.

The Forest Service has more prescribed burns planned for this upcoming fall and into 2020 in the Fishlake National Forest.