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Lewistown Field Office
Release Date: 07/13/09
Contacts: Craig Flentie 406-538-1943    

BLM Successfully Completes Controlled Burns

Each spring, the Bureau of Land Management’s Central Montana Fire Zone Office (BLM) has a brief window of opportunity when the weather, fuel conditions, and staff availability lend themselves to controlled burning on public land.

Controlled burning (intentionally igniting a fire designed to burn in a pre-determined area, with specific objectives, and desired fire behavior) is a beneficial, but demanding management tool.  

Successful controlled burns create multiple benefits such as reducing fuel loads and the chances for catastrophic fire (which saves taxpayer dollars); reducing conifer encroachment; increasing the amount of edge between burned and unburned vegetation in a mosaic pattern; and improving wildlife habitat and livestock grazing.
However, the decision to ignite a controlled burn does not come lightly.   The business of controlled burning is ripe with variable demands such as fuels that are not too wet or too dry and the available staff to handle the burning. Weather conditions (wind direction/speed, rain, relative humidity, or excessive heat) are significant factors in the decision to ignite a controlled burn. If current and predicted weather patterns are not favorable, controlled burns are postponed; there’s little room for error. Bringing these conditions together often demands a level of planning and preparation that can eclipse many wedding plans. 
Once all the favorable conditions, staff availability and the appropriate planning come together, successful burn bosses still consider extra margins of safety and caution before igniting a controlled burn.    
The BLM recently completed a series of successful controlled burns in Lion Coulee, which is part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument (north of the Stafford Ferry near Leroy, Montana). This series of burns occurred over the course of two weeks, as conditions allowed.
Collectively, the BLM was able to treat about 550 acres with these burns. Each controlled burn was designed to consume the litter (twigs, small plants, and conifer needles) on the forest floor; and remove some juniper and small Douglas fir; but limit the mortality of the larger overstory trees. 
The Lion Coulee controlled burns were very successful. “We were able to manage the intensity of these burns, keep the burns where we wanted them, and meet our objectives. It will make quite an improvement in the health of this forest,” added John Seemann, a BLM fuels specialist in Lewistown.
Summer weather conditions and staff availability reduce the opportunities for controlled burning. But next spring, the fuels staff in the BLM’s Central Montana Fire Zone will again be weighing the benefits and demands of using controlled burns to improve the forest health on select parcels of public land.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.

Lewistown Field Office   920 NE Main Street      Lewistown, MT 59457  

Last updated: 06-28-2012