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Fuels Reduction Project Increases Safety for Residents, Recreationists and Firefighters in the Wind River/Bighorn Basin District

By Andy Rothleutner

Sand Draw before fuels treatment.
Sand Draw before fuels treatment.
Sand Draw fuels treatment.
Sand Draw fuels treatment.
Sand Draw after fuels reduction treatment.
Sand Draw after fuels treatment.
Beginning in January, 2008, fire management staff from the Worland, Lander and Cody Field Offices began work to reduce fuel loading in Sand Draw along the Smilo Canyon Road in BLM Wyoming’s Wind River/Bighorn Basin District. 

The ultimate goal of the project is to protect a number of houses at the bottom of Sand Draw. In addition, it will also reduce the threat of destructive wildfire to other structures in Ten Sleep Canyon and nearby Canyon Creek. Sand Draw has seen catastrophic wildfire as recently as 1996 in the upper canyon and evidence exists of other wildland fires in the past.  

 When completed, the project will provide safer egress for the public using the area and safer access and egress for wildland firefighters. Added benefits of the project include the restoration of ponderosa pine tree stands to historic conditions and the restoration of a riparian bottom to protect native cottonwoods, willows and other species.  

Work consists primarily of cutting and piling Utah and Rocky Mountain juniper. In some areas ponderosas are thinned to break up the canopy for protection against crown fire. Wind River/Bighorn Basin engine crews, fuels crew, fire overhead and resource staff participated in cutting and piling juniper throughout 2008. Piles are burned with snow on the ground. Work will continue as needed until completed in the Sand Draw wildland urban interface.

Last updated: 02-05-2009