The Bureau of Land Management’s Dillon Field Office plans to conduct several prescribed burns in Beaverhead and Madison counties during the upcoming spring months.
The primary objectives of the planned burn treatments are to reduce conifers that are expanding into sagebrush/grassland habitat, and to promote habitat biodiversity. Smoke from the burns may be visible to the public on days of ignition. The burns are planned for the following areas:
- The East Fork of Little Sheep Creek drainage, about six miles southwest of Lima. The burn area is adjacent to the East Fork Campground and is about 370 acres in size. In addition to reducing conifer expansion into the sagebrush/grasslands, this burn treatment will maintain and enhance existing stands of aspen trees.
- Six miles south of Whitehall, near Bone Basin. The two burn areas are three-quarters of a mile apart and total approximately 340 acres.
- The Preacher Creek drainage, about seven miles west of Norris. The burn area is about 160 acres in size.
The timing of the burns depends on weather and fuel conditions. Generally, the spring prescribed burning season concludes in June due to vegetation green-up.
“The relatively recent expansion of conifers into mid-elevation sagebrush and grassland is very apparent when comparing current conditions to those recorded in past studies and photos,” said Kipper Blotkamp of the Dillon Field Office. “The conifer expansion can be attributed, at least in part, to the near exclusion of wildfire. The BLM uses prescribed fire as a tool to maintain the existing sagebrush and grasslands, and to promote biodiversity across the broader landscape.”
The prescribed burns will be implemented and closely monitored by fire managers and firefighters from the BLM, the Forest Service and the Montana DNRC. The BLM is required to obtain a burn permit each year from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, allowing the BLM to burn from March 1 to Dec. 1. Each burn needs to be pre-approved a day before ignition is to occur, and depends on air quality conditions.