Fuels Reduction & Habitat Restoration

Fuel Break Project Employs Mix of Treatment Methods

Fuel breaks are an important tool for protecting lives and property in the wildland-urban interface. They give firefighters “a place to fight from.” Various vegetation treatments were used to construct such a break in the Ash Creek Fuels Reduction Project, near the community of New Harmony, south of Cedar City, Utah. Fast-growing New Harmony has been threatened several times in recent years by large-scale wildfires.




The Ash Creek project area encompassed 1,600 acres of BLM-managed lands lying between Interstate 15 and the Dixie National Forest boundary. In 2001, pinyon and juniper were hand-thinned on 1,200 acres. Aerial herbicide treatment followed in 2004 to reduce some of the shrub oak and sagebrush vegetation. Prescribed fire was then applied to 500 acres of previously treated land to remove debris and slash from the thinning, and further reduce shrubs and fine fuels. In turn, seeded perennial grasses and forbs – which stay green and fire-resistant much longer than the cheatgrass that typically prevails on lands adjacent to the project area – were released.

The fuel break was soon tested by the Ranch Fire in the summer of 2006
and proved instrumental in slowing the fire’s progress and saving homes.
 At right, the Ranch Fire burns along I-15.

The Ash Creek project area is also critical habitat for big game.
Diversifying the age class of vegetation helps sustain mule deer through the winter months,
and the fuel break prevents the majority of this habitat being lost to a single wildfire event.
Improved forbs and grasses provide better forage for both wildlife and livestock.