BLM to demonstrate fuel reduction near rural homes

GREENSPRINGS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to use 91 acres in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to demonstrate how it plans to reduce hazardous fuels near rural homes.

The proposed demonstration project calls for using burning and thinning on six locations within the wildland-urban interface in the 52,947-acre monument. The burning would include both lighting hand piles and under-burning, which involves burning the brush and small vegetation on the forest floor.

BLM officials will lead a field tour of the six locations at 10 a.m. Saturday beginning at the Pinehurst Elementary School some 22 miles east of Ashland off Highway 66. Participants should bring a lunch for the four- to five-hour tour.

The demonstration units are spread throughout the interface area near residences and private property along the highway in the Greensprings community.

The Oregon Depart­ment of Forestry has identified the Greensprings area as a "com­munity at risk" for a summer wildfire spreading from public to private lands. While the majority of the private lands in the area have been recently treated to reduce fire hazards, the demonstration units would be the BLM's first step in completing the overall community wildfire protection strategy, officials said.

Fire suppression over the past century has significantly changed the vegetation in the area, creating dense stands of white fir and Douglas fir at the expense of sugar pine, ponderosa pine and incense cedar, according to fire experts. In addition to altering the historic structure of forest stands and fire-dependent plant communities, fire exclusion has created conditions that have produced excessive ground and ladder fuels, increasing the potential for stand-replacement fires, they add.

However, if the agency moves ahead with its demonstration project, it wouldn't be until next year at the earliest that the work on the ground would be done, said Howard Hunter, the BLM's assistant monument manager.

"We hope to make a decision this winter," he said. "We would have to do an environmental assessment. And we would have a lot of access issues to resolve before it could happen."

Anyone with questions about the demonstration project should contact Gerritsma at 618-2200, Hunter at 618-2256 or Kevin Kocarek at 618-2261.

For more information, including a map, check out the BLM's Medford District Web site at

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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