BLM outlines $1.9M Pine Ridge Fire rehab plan

The Bureau of Land Management has submitted a $1.9 million plan to rehabilitate the nearly 14,000 acres burned in the Pine Ridge Fire southwest of De Beque, focusing on soil stabilization and erosion prevention on the scorched land.

Sparky Taber, a BLM natural resource specialist, said the 20-person Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation committee outlined goals based on what they saw as immediate concerns for people and property.

One of the short-term goals of the plan is to install flow detectors in two canyons near the burned area, which will alert companies such as the Clifton Water District and the Union Pacific Railroad to sediment flow.

The BLM also plans to install five new sediment retention dams, clean out the 19 existing sediment ponds and create ponds if necessary, and to distribute by aircraft sterile, non-reseeding grass on 4,800 acres to help with short-term soil stabilization.

By November, the BLM hopes to distribute three seed mixtures on 11,000 acres for a more permanent regrowth. Those seeds will include plants native to western Colorado. Next year, crews will watch for non-native, invasive plants and, according to Taber, hope for abundant spring rains.

“One of the main things you need on any rehab effort is the spring rains,” he said.

Taber, who has worked for the BLM for 20 years, said the proposed plan was the biggest he’s ever worked on.

“We’ve done a lot of these over the years, but this one was the biggest,” Taber. “We recognized we’d need some help putting it together.”

Taber and other BLM specialists were joined by experts in wildlife, plant biology, archeology, geology, hydrology, cartography and resource conservation to put together the 65-page BAER plan in 17 days. The BAER committee is given a 21-day time limit to submit the plan to the national office for review from the time the fire is fully contained. Taber said he hopes the Western Slope community realizes how much the BAER plan will help keep the burned wild lands stable, as well as protect residents from hazards like water contamination and soil erosion.

“We had a lot of resource specialists who are subject matter experts,” Taber said. “All those folks put their best effort into producing a plan to rehab a piece of land that we really care about. That’s why we work where we work ... when we get an event like this, we want to take care of it.”

The BLM expects to hear from the national office this week on whether the plan will be approved. With the exception of certain projects with pre-approved funding, the BLM will have a finalized plan and begin work within two weeks.


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