Truth or Consequences, NM, February 14, 2018—The Gila National Forest has a target of ~25,000 acres of hazardous fuels reduction for Fiscal Year 2018. The Black Range Ranger District has three prescribed burns planned for this year: (1) Area 74, Units 9 and 10, (approximately 9,000 acres), (2) Indian Peaks, Unit 16, 20 (approximately 3,700 acres), and (3) Indian Peaks, Unit 13 (approximately 7,300 acres). 

The first step involved in the Area 74 planning process is completing a burn plan. The purpose of a burn plan is to provide a description of the burn area, objectives to be achieved, target weather conditions, hazards that may be encountered, personnel needs and safety, and contacts to make prior to burning. The draft Area 74 burn plan has been submitted to the Region 3 Southwestern Regional Office for a technical review and is expected to be approved in March.

The Area 74 Burn will take approximately three weeks to complete. The planned area is reviewed to ensure appropriate NEPA guidelines are achieved; due to the size and complexity, it is being reviewed at the Regional Office level. The Gila NF is coordinating internally to ensure appropriate number of personnel to support on-the-ground efforts are scheduled and to ensure our ranger districts have the opportunity to complete their planned hazardous fuels reduction projects.

The next step after Regional Office reviews and approves will be biological clearances to ensure we account for the Mexican spotted owls in the burn area. The Forest Service will be coordinating with private landowners, grazing permit holders, N.M. Department of Transportation, N.M. Division of Forestry, and county governments. Implementation will then be weather dependent and Dennis Fahl, Black Range Fire Management Officer, stated that they are hoping for the right weather window in mid-late May.

The Indian Peaks burn units are not as technically complex, so Regional Office coordination is not required. That said, the Black Range is working closely with the Socorro and Albuquerque Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices to potentially burn on both BLM and National Forest System lands when units 16 and 20 are burned. In addition to federal lands planned for prescribed burning, some private lands and State Trust lands are being identified to ensure appropriate fire intervals are maintained on a more landscape scale. More information will be provided in future news releases on the Indian Peaks prescribed burning.

For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/gila

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