BLM reopens Pine Ridge Fire area

Just in time for hunting season, the Bureau of Land Management on Thursday reopened the nearly 14,000 acres burned by the 2012 Pine Ridge Fire west of De Beque.

The agency credited abundant rainfall over the past year in aiding revegetation and helping it lift the closure earlier than planned.

The closure to public use had been scheduled to run through January. The fire was caused by lightning and burned between June 27 and July 4, 2012, leaving barren soil susceptible to wind and water erosion. A storm shortly after it occurred dumped ash and debris into the Colorado River, forcing the Clifton Water District to shut down its river intake for a day and a half. Officials also feared the prospect of fire-related flooding or debris flows damaging the Union Pacific railroad tracks in De Beque Canyon.

In addition, the BLM was concerned about invasive weeds like fire-prone cheatgrass.

The BLM first reseeded with a sterile annual wheatgrass to try to initially stabilize the soil, and later applied a mix of perennial native plants. Initially dry conditions hampered early reseeding efforts, but the BLM said in a news release that “incredible rainfall” over the past year and the public’s cooperation with the closure helped ensure seedling success.

“Any disturbance during the sensitive germination and plant establishment stage could have caused far-reaching damage,” said Grand Junction associate field manager Wayne Werkmeister.

The aerial reseeding work cost more than $1.5 million.

BLM spokesman Christopher Joyner said Thursday, “That area is pretty popular for hunting both deer and elk.”

He said off-highway vehicle use also is popular there, along with some horseback riding.

The BLM is limiting motorized travel to designated routes in the burn area.

Joyner said the public took the closure seriously and that compliance was crucial to the revegetation success.


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