Tag Archives: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Supervisor Discusses San Juan Fire Management

Alia Shaban Pedigo | Apache Sitgreaves National Forest

Alia Shaban Pedigo | Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

EDITOR’S NOTE: We received the following letter last week from Jim Zornes, forest supervisor for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media lately on the national forest treatment activities associated with the management of the San Juan Fire on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.  I hope to at least set the record straight on what has occurred, and dispel some inaccurate information as it relates to vegetation-management activities on the local level.

The San Juan Fire started around noon on Thursday, June 26, 2014, on White Mountain Apache tribal lands near San Juan Lake. The fire was driven by a strong southwest wind and soon crossed over onto the Apache-Sitgreaves NF, about 6 miles south of Vernon. The Fort Apache Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered the Southwest Area Incident Management Team (IMT) 4 (Matt Reidy’s team), who assumed command of the fire at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, June 27, 2014. The fire was making significant crown fire runs in the mixed conifer, and burning downslope toward the transition into ponderosa pine. One of the first pieces of information from the San Juan Fire IMT was the accounts of the fire lying down when it hit areas of treatment in the pine.

White Mountain Stewardship (WMS) is still the oldest and largest “operationally active” stewardship contract in the country, beginning in August 2004 and terminating in August 2014. It terminates in August because federal law requires all Integrated Resource Service Contracts to have a maximum term of 10 years. WMS was developed in the aftermath of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire of 2002 to treat fuels, especially around communities, and to build industry to support future treatment opportunities.  It is, and has been, wildly successful. The degree of magnitude did not rise to the 150,000-acre threshold as planned, but has resulted in over 70,000 acres of mechanical treatment.  A large portion of those treatments occurred in the path of the San Juan Fire. We don’t have to go back very far to see the same benefits of treatments in Alpine, Nutrioso, Eagar and Greer from the Wallow Fire.

But that’s not the whole story for the San Juan Fire; there have been thousands of acres of other treatments outside WMS that include additional timber sales, stewardship contracts and prescribed fire. Rocky Mountain Elk Society, Arizona Elk Society, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Habitat Partnership Committee have all stepped up to contribute funds to carry out these additional fire and vegetation management activities.  Some news accounts have stated all these activities in past tense, but during the San Juan Fire, active logging was still occurring with log decks immediately adjacent to the fire lines. Additionally, prescribed fire is occurring whenever fire personnel can safely meet the objectives of their burn plans.

Suppression activities on the nearly 7,000-acre San Juan Fire are estimated to cost about $6.5 million (excluding resource values), with $250,000 of that total included as Burned Area Emergency Response. The above mentioned activity equates to approximately $932 per acre.  Without prior treatments modifying fire behavior, the number of acres burned, the total costs of suppression and risk to firefighters would have been much higher. Mechanical treatments and prescribed fire modify the fuels environment; remember, the fire triangle contains air (oxygen), heat and fuel.  The goal of treatment, whether by mechanical means or prescribed fire, is to reduce the effects of heat generated by reducing the amount of fuels. That in turn reduces the propensity for fires to reach the crowns of trees, and allows firefighters a safer environment to work.

Mechanical treatment costs have actually fallen from a high of around $500 per acre 10 years ago to at or near zero costs today. For the past three and a half years, competitive-bid timber sales and stewardship contracts have actually posted positive returns to Treasury. However, another cost center that must be addressed is the cost in firefighter safety. It is not enough to say one person or another is to blame for firefighter losses we’ve experienced over the past few years.  Even one is not acceptable; even one is not on the table as a consequence of actions.  Treatments do improve the “odds” of firefighters successfully managing and/or suppressing wildfires in a safer environment.

But once again, fire suppression and national-forest treatment costs are not the total story; those activities from partnership dollars, along with work being done by Navajo, Greenlee and Apache counties in partnership with Arizona State Forestry and White Mountain Apache Tribe, have contributed greatly to treating both sides of the ownership lines, whether it is federal, state or private lands. Those continued partnership activities are what it is going to take to continue to make advancements in protecting communities and resources in the White Mountains.   There is currently a national investigation team looking at the effectiveness of treatments — another requirement for incidents such as the San Juan Fire when a wildfire burns into managed areas.  If past history is a guide, I think we may already know the results of that outcome.

— Jim Zornes, Forest Supervisor, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

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Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Visitor Surveys Underway

Archie Tucker | Apache-Sitgreaves NF

Archie Tucker | Apache-Sitgreaves NF

From our friends at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests:

For the next several months, visitors to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests may encounter employees and contractors conducting National Visitor Use Monitoring in Forest Service recreation areas. Well-trained interviewers wearing bright orange vests are stationed at some trailheads and roadsides near signs signaling that visitor and traffic surveys are underway.

Visitor use surveys are a planning tool used by forest managers and local, state, and national officials to better provide for the needs of the public. Public participation is essential to get an accurate account of the number of visitors, their recreational activities, and satisfaction with facilities and services. Therefore, visitors are asked to stop and talk with interviewers about their experience on the forest.

Surveys are voluntary and collect basic information about a visitor’s trip including areas visited, number of people in party, length of stay, and satisfaction. Respondents are anonymous. Interviews last from 8 to 13 minutes. About a third of visitors will be asked to complete a confidential survey on recreation spending. Both local and out-of-town visitors are encouraged to participate so that all types of visitors will be represented in the results. Repeat visitors or those traveling within multiple survey areas of the forest may be asked to participate more than once.

This on-going survey is conducted every five years. This year’s results will be compared with the previous survey to identify recreation trends over time. Results are also used to estimate the effects of tourism on local economies.

For more information, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum/.

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Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Takes Credit Cards

Alia Shaban Pedigo | Apache Sitgreaves National Forest

Alia Shaban Pedigo | Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

If you’re heading out to the White Mountains this weekend, don’t forget: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests now takes plastic. Check it out:

Springerville, AZ—July 24, 2013:  The power of plastic just came to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs). The offices are now equipped to accept credit cards and scan personal checks for the sales of forest products. In some of these locations, certain maps may also be purchased with this system in place. If you opt to pay your bills issued for special uses, range permits and such we accept payment as long as it is for the full amount, no partial payments are accepted for these types of transactions.

“Most people have assumed we take credit cards, and now we can offer one of the most common-place services. The sigh of relief will come from buyers when they ask if we take credit cards and we can now say ‘yes.’ This will allow our customers to make the hand motion of swiping their card,” according to Verna Valdez, Budget Analyst for the ASNFs.

 
The new Forest Service sale system aims to provide customers with improved convenience, increase purchaser satisfaction, and reduce the volume of collected currency.

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Over 70 Illegal Campfires Discovered on the Apache-Sitgreaves NF

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

Wow. Well, this is some very, very disappointing news. Turns out, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests personnel found over 70 illegal campfires while patrolling Memorial Day weekend. “In most cases, campers complied with our request to put out their campfires, however, citations were issued,” says Mark Empey, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests’ Fire Management Officer.

In case you forgot, on May 23, campfire and smoking restrictions were implemented in Apache and Navajo Counties, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and within local fire districts located in both counties.

Most Arizona campers are used to the almost annual need for restrictions on campfires. Still, it’s clear some folks need a reminder.

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

Let’s not forget Arizona experienced several mega fires in 2011, namely the Wallow Fire, which charred over 538,000 acres, and, according to the Forest Service, this year’s severe drought conditions and moisture emulate the blue print from 2011. The Forest would like to enlist the public’s help in reporting abandoned fires or people who build campfires outside of developed campgrounds.

In the meantime, the fire restrictions will remain in place until national forests service lands within Apache, Greenlee and Navajo Counties receive significant precipitation.

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

Photo by Kelly Vaughn Kramer | Wallow Fire

White Mountain visitors are reminded that some campfire restrictions are always in effect, such as in forested areas within city limits of most northern Arizona communities. Additionally, fireworks are never allowed on National Forests. For more information about restrictions on public lands by calling (928) 333-3412 or toll free 1-877-864-6985 or visit (www.311info.net), and also the NEW interagency website: (Firerestrictions.us) created to inform residents and visitors about fire restrictions and closures across the South-west area.

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Campfire & Smoking Restrictions to be Implemented

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Photo by Kelly Kramer

A very important message from our friends at the U.S. Forest Service:

Springerville, AZ – May 15, 2013—Campfire and smoking restrictions will be implemented at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, May 23 in Apache and Navajo Counties, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and within local fire districts located in both counties.

White Mountain area cities, counties, and federal agencies, along with commercial partners that make up Northeast Arizona Public Information System (593 JIC), and the White Mountains Fire Restrictions Coordination Group have been collectively planning for months to implement timely fire restrictions for public lands within the White Mountain area.

With extremely dry vegetation, the risk of wildland fire is extremely high. People who enjoy public lands in Apache and Navajo Counties can reduce the risk of fire by practicing fire safety and by adhering to fire prevention restrictions. The criteria officials consider before implementing fire restrictions include current and predicted weather, fuel conditions, fire activity levels, and available resources. Due to increasing fire danger, the following fire restrictions are deemed necessary to prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public health and safety:

  • Fires, campfires, charcoal, coal and wood stoves are allowed in developed campgrounds only.
  • These restrictions limit smoking to within enclosed vehicles, buildings, or in developed campgrounds.
  • Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns, and heaters that can be turned off are allowed.

The fire restrictions will remain in place until lands within Apache and Navajo Counties receive significant precipitation.

White Mountain visitors are reminded that some campfire restrictions are always in effect, such as in forested areas within city limits of most northern Arizona communities. Additionally, fireworks are never allowed on National Forests. For more information about restrictions on public lands by calling (928) 333-3412 or toll free 1-877-864-6985 or visit (www.593info.org), and also the NEW interagency website: (Firerestrictions.us) created to inform residents and visitors about fire restrictions and closures across the South-west area.

Forest and White Mountain visitors are encouraged to be fire safe and show their commitment to wildfire prevention by going online and taking Smokey’s pledge.

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Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Proposes Temporary Safety Closure For Rodeo-Chediski, Show Low South & Timber Mesa areas

Image courtesy of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) are proposing the implementation of a temporary safety closure in the areas of the 2002 Rodeo/Chediski fire, Show Low South and the Timber Mesa. The temporary closure will provide for public and fire fighter safety and to protect private property. The closure will be implemented Friday, June 8.

The Rodeo-Chediski fire area consisted of severe, moderate to light burning on the landscape of the western portion of the Lakeside Ranger District and the eastern portion of the Black Mesa Ranger District. Since that time grass and down and dead rotting pine trees have become the major fuel bed. Conditions are now conducive to a fast moving wildland fire occurring in the area which is a Wildland Urban Interface.

An area known as Show Low South adjacent to The Rodeo-Chediski is also at risk of a severe wildland fire moving into a highly populated Wildland Urban Interface Area. The Interface area will be closed south of AZ State Hwy 260.

The Timber Mesa area has several miles of motorized and non-motorized trails which are heavily used this time of year. Timber Mesa and Porter Mountain’s fuel conditions could lead to a catastrophic fire in the area. Also centered in the closure area is the communications site at the top of Porter Mountain.

The proposed closure area is now in the 97th percentile for Energy Release Component Charts which means only 3% of the 3,063 days that weather observations have been taken in the past 15 years have been this high.

Any fire start in the area poses a safety risk to the public and to fire fighters.

Stage II fire restrictions and this area closure will remain in place until lands within Apache and Navajo Counties receive significant precipitation.

What do Stage II fire restrictions mean to campers on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests? NO CAMPFIRES ARE ALLOWED IN DEVELOPED CAMPSITES OR WHEN DISPERSE CAMPING.

A few more do’s and don’ts…

What’s NOT ALLOWED:

· Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove fire.
The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices are allowed provided such devices meet the fire underwriter’s specifications for safety. Liquid petroleum and LPG stoves that can be turned on and off are allowed.

· Using an explosive.

· Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

· Possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.

· Welding, or operating an acetylene, or other torch with open flame.

· Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order.

· Operating a chainsaw between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. is prohibited; chain saws may be used between the hours of 8:01 p.m. and 8:59 a.m.

What’s ALLOWED:

· Persons with a Forest Service permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.

· Any Federal, State or Local Officer or member of an organized rescue firefighting force in the performance of an official duty.

· Persons in motor vehicles on existing Forest Service system roads or trail are exempted.

 

For more information about restrictions on public lands, call toll free 1-877-864-6985 or visit (http://www.publiclands.org/firenews/AZ.php and www.593info.org) or by dialing 593 or 928-333-3412.

 

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