Purpose and Need for the Project
The Virgin River riparian corridor is heavily infested with the invasive, non-native tree species Tamarix ramosissima (Tamarisk or Salt Cedar). Tamarisk-dominated stands are more flammable than the native cottonwood and willow gallery forests. Compared to the native riparian habitats in the American Southwest, tamarisk stands exhibit greater fuel loading (stand density), closer canopy continuity and vertical structure, lower fuel moisture content, and much greater accumulation of surface litter. As a facultative phreatophyte, tamarisk does not require a constantly saturated root zone and hence is able to occupy drier terrace positions within the river floodplain. This increases the horizontal extent and arrangement of the fire fuel bed in comparison to the native cottonwoods and willows, which tend to form narrow, somewhat linear stands along the immediate fringes of live streams. Besides posing an increased risk of wildfire ignition and spread versus native vegetation, tamarisk-infested habitat also exhibits a significantly shorter fire return interval. Under typical conditions tamarisk will readily reestablish its dominance on burned areas, in large part because the species is an aggressive stump sprouter following any type of surface disturbance, including fire.
The City of Mesquite, Nevada and the unincorporated township of Bunkerville, Nevada straddle the Virgin River riparian corridor and thus are at increased risk of wildfire-related impacts along several miles of direct wildland urban interface.
Tim Rash, fire ecologist, 702-515-5035