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Pine Nut group seeks alternative to proposed BLM burn

by Jeff Munson

An environmental group says it will donate labor and equipment to clear dense underbrush the Bureau of Land Management wants to burn in the Jack Wright Pass area in southeast Douglas County.

The Pine Nut Preservation League has written a letter to the BLM asking that it consider an alternative to the 300 to 400-acre burn plan, which could begin this spring.

“Although we respect the expertise BLM staff has for utilizing controlled burns as a management tool, we believe that a controlled burn in Jack Wright Pass should be the tool of last resort,” said John Dicks, president of the Pine Nut Preservation League, in a letter to the BLM.

BLM fire ecologist Tim Roide of the BLM’s Carson City Field Office says the proposal is worth considering.

“They’ve offered an alternative that I think has some good ideas behind it,” said Roide. “I think people overwhelmingly agree that there needs to be fuels management. The group has taken a proactive position and I’m happy to see this option.”

For nearly two months, residents of Smith Valley have complained the proposed burn could put the area at risk because of erratic wind shifts and erosion the fire could cause to nearby streams.

Dicks said an alternative plan would be to donate time and labor under the management of the BLM to eliminate the flora brush and dead trees that are a fire hazard. The plan, which the group says would take about six months, calls for the cutting and grinding of the brush into chips, mulch and compost.

Under the proposal, the Preservation League would coordinate machinery and volunteers while the BLM could oversee supervision of the project.

“We believe a project of this nature would have a multitude of benefits for society, the community, the BLM and the environment,” said Dicks.

The BLM is soliciting comments on the burn plan through Friday.

Opponents of the plan have argued that controlled BLM burns last year raced out of control in California, New Mexico, Washington state and closer to home at Mount Como. They fear the same thing could happen at Jack Wright Pass because of erratic winds.

Roide said the proposed Jack Wright fire would be done in spring or fall, when the potential for a fire to spread would be diminished because of cooler weather conditions.

Teams would monitor the fire and the BLM would likely have fast access to fire crews and suppression teams if there appeared to be potential for it to grow.

The proposed burn plan for Jack Wright is also different from the prescribed burn at Mount Como, Roide said. In the Mount Como area, the burn area was difficult to get into, with lots of heavy brush. With the Jack Wright fire, there would be burn piles of slash, arranged in “mosaic” pockets.

While there are alternatives to burning, such as mechanical treatment like chipping proposed by the Preservation League, the BLM has been concerned moving heavy equipment into the area could damage bitterbrush that deer use to forage during their migration.

Breakout:

Send comments on the proposed Jack Wright Pass burn plan to:

The Bureau of Land Management Carson Field Office

Attention Tim Roide

5665 Morgan Mill Road

Carson City, NV 89701