The proposed project area consisting of 145,000 acres lies entirely within Carbon County and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rawlins Field Office (RFO), approximately 30 miles north of Rawlins and east of Lamont and Muddy Gap and west of Sand Creek and the Buzzard Ranch headquarters. The entire project area boundary is defined by US Highway 287, Wyoming State Highway 220, and Carbon County roads 100, 497 and 499. The proposed project area includes lands administered by the BLM, State of Wyoming Trust Lands (State), and privately owned deeded lands. The elevation within the project area varies from 6300 feet along Sand Creek on the northeast side to nearly 10,200 feet at Ferris Peak, the highest point of the Ferris’ Mountains. The proposed project area landscape is dominated by sharply rising and rugged Ferris’ Mountains, with moderately steep terrain along the drainages, hogback ridges, and swales leading from and/or bordering the mountain. The entire project area includes seven livestock grazing allotments, all of which are administered out of the Rawlins BLM Field Office. The grazing allotments included within the project area include Bar Eleven #10205, Buzzard #10201, Cherry Creek #10103, Ferris Mountain #10207, Muddy Creek Pasture #02027, Pole Mountain #10215, and Stone #10221. The majority of the proposed treatments would occur within the Ferris’ Mountain Wilderness Study Area (WSA).
The Ferris Mountain project area consists of mainly timbered slopes, interspersed with upland areas dominated by sagebrush, grass, and mountain shrub communities. Timber stands within the project unit consist of Douglas fir, subalpine fir, spruce, lodgepole pine, limber pine, and aspen, in addition to scattered locations of Rocky Mountain juniper. Long-term suppression of wildfires has promoted the encroachment of conifers into shrublands, aspen stands, and drainages supporting aspen, waterbirch and willows, to the point where many of these communities are non-functional. Decadence and disease is commonly observed in terms of mistletoe, blister rust, and bleeding rust, and pine beetles have killed many of the older trees, particularly the pines. Aspen health was a focus of recent watershed assessments, since it now occupies less than 10% of the habitat compared to the early 1900’s.
While the project area is considered summer range for elk, antelope, mule deer and bighorn sheep, it also contains designated crucial winter habitat (primarily off the mountain) for the previously list. Currently there are no identified greater sage-grouse leks within the project area, however, core habitat is identified along the south side of the Ferris’ Mountains. Blue grouse and other wildlife are often observed, and brook trout are found in most of the perennial streams along the base of the mountain.
Recreational opportunities in the area include wildlife viewing, big game, mountain lion, upland bird, varmint, rock, and antler hunting. Access to the project unit is available from adjacent highways and county roads, then following two-tracks that cross public, state and private lands.
This prescribed burn is being proposed by the BLM, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District, and some private landowners/livestock operators. Habitats across the project area have become diseased and decadent with increased fuel loading, that will be more susceptible to wildfires in the future. Riparian, mountain shrub, and aspen communities within the project area have demonstrated a loss in vigor, cover, age diversity, and overall function. Habitat quality has decreased over the project area due to timber encroachment and shrub over maturity and/or decadence, and the lack of structural and age stratification throughout the vegetative community. Competition from shrubs for water and nutrients has reduced the amount, vigor, and nutritional quality of grasses and forbs important for wildlife and livestock during various use periods. Watershed health has declined due to the loss of herbaceous (grass) under-story and overall ground cover on some upland sites.
The general goal of the proposal is to restore aspen, mountain shrub and riparian health by reducing conifer encroachment into these habitats. A second goal is to diversify the age-class and structure of all vegetation communities likely to burn within the project area. By diversifying the vegetation, specific benefits to varied resources in the area are expected to occur, which would include increased ground cover and water flows, improved forage quantity and quality, and more early seral plant species and communities. Visual corridors for bighorn sheep would be created that may promote expansion of this species that historically was common in the area (but has declined over the last 20 years). Overall, the proposed action would restore the natural role of fire within this ecosystem and contribute to the achievement of standards for healthy rangelands and desired future conditions (DFC) in the subject project area, helping benefit all resource users.
In order to accomplish these goals, the proposed action would manipulate the vegetation in the project area by treating the predominant timber and shrub communities. The proposed action would treat vegetation in multiple treatments over a ten to twenty year period by prescribed burning and/or the occurrence of a natural ignition (lightning) to achieve a more natural mixture of grasses and shrubs, as well as stratifying successional stages of timber communities measured by overall composition, density, aerial cover, and age class structure.
Questions: Please Contact Andy Warren with the Rawlins BLM Field Office at 307-328-4271.