Fuels Management in the Carson City District
Though wildland fires play an integral role in many rangeland and forest ecosystems, decades of efforts directed at extinguishing fires that burned on public lands, past land management practices, droughts, and insect, disease and invasive plants have disrupted the natural fire regimes, historical frequency and severity of fires, that once existed. Moreover, as more and more communities develop and grow in areas that are adjacent to fire-prone landscapes, in what is known as the wildland urban interface (WUI), wildland fires pose increasing threats to people and their property.’s (CCFO) fuels management program works closely with homeowners, communities, fire departments, government agencies and tribes to develop and implement hazardous fuels treatments designed to reduce the risks of catastrophic wildland fire to people, communities, and natural resources and restore rangeland and forest ecosystems.
The primary objective of the BLM-Carson City District Office’s hazardous fuels treatments is to modify the amount, structure, and continuity of flammable vegetation to reduce fire occurrence and intensity and risks posed by wildfire.
The CCFO fuels management program annually treats over 1,000 acres, in WUI areas along the Sierra Front and in high resource value locations outside of the WUI. Past fuels treatments have proven to successfully lessen the severity and threat of wildfires to the public, firefighter safety and natural resources as well as making fire suppression more effective. Treatments are typically accomplished using mechanical thinning, seeding of fire resistant species, prescribed fire, herbicide application or a combination of these methods.
So what type of treatment is the best? Good question. The answer is, it depends. The variables are the location of the project, the vegetation community type, the health of the vegetation community and the anticipated vegetative response to the types of treatment methods available.
The Great Basin rangeland ecosystem poses the biggest challenge for the CCFO fuels management program because millions of acres are today dominated by fire-prone invasive weed species such as cheatgrass. Invasive weed species have severely altered fire regimes and because they aggressively establish in disturbed areas it is a challenge to restore treated areas to a desirable, more fire resistant plant community.
In the Great Basin rangeland ecosystem, fuels treatments which introduce fire-resistant broadleaf plants and grasses in areas following mechanical mowing have proven to be a particularly effective fuels treatment technique.
Does the BLM use prescribed fire? Yes. Fire mimics the natural process the best of all the treatment options, but its use is typically limited to sites where the vegetation community is healthy and a desirable vegetative response to fire is anticipated. The majority of our prescribed fire treatments are conducted in forest ecosystems, primarily in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.
BLM has begun proactively treating fuels to reduce the wildfire risk to communities and high value natural resources; however, there remains a significant amount of work to be done. It has taken a number of decades to create the current fuel management challenges that we now face and they will not be solved quickly or easily.