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Prescribed burns help protect public lands

While nature does its best to keep things in balance, there are times when a little help from land and resource managers is necessary. One of those helping hands comes from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and includes prescribed burns on public land to maintain and enhance the health and productivity of some incredible resources. 

As stewards of 5.4 million acres of public land in six counties – Doña Ana, Luna, Hidalgo, Grant, Sierra and Otero, the BLM Las Cruces District employs a team of specialists to accomplish some important objectives through prescribed burns.

The BLM Fire Management Program has two objectives, including the protection of life, property and public land and resources from wildland fire; and the maintenance and enhancement of resources through prescribed burning for the benefit of wildlife habitat and rangeland resources. To meet both objectives, the BLM Las Cruces District specialists work together to monitor the resources and plan their strategies.

The BLM Las Cruces District has planned three prescribed burns this month. The burns include the Dripping Springs Natural Area in Doña Ana County and the Centennial and Red Rio Bombing ranges in Otero and Socorro counties. They are slated for March 6 (Dripping Springs), March 20 (Red Rio) and March 21 (Centennial). 

Prior to any burn activities, the BLM fire staff develop a prescribe fire burn plan, focusing on the fuel type, topography, weather conditions and forecasts and the resources, such as engines, hand crews and aviation, it will use to conduct the burn. They also conduct a pre-operational meeting to review the resource objectives and fire modeling, confirm individual fire assignments and cover all communication and safety points.

The BLM Las Cruces District fire staff receive extensive training in fire management and wildland firefighting protocols and techniques. Their training and certification cover topics like fuel prescriptions, fire behavior, weather and safety trigger points, and much more. 

The Dripping Springs Natural Area is one example of how prescribed burning has met the two fire management objectives of protection and resource benefit over time. Since February 2008, the BLM has burned approximately 500 to 700 acres above the Dripping Springs Visitor Area and toward Bar Canyon to maintain a safety zone for visitors and firefighters in case of future wildfires. The safety zone also helps protect the natural area’s historic structures and improve wildlife habitat. 

During prescribed burn activities, the BLM may close areas to public access for public safety and operational requirements. In addition, the BLM issues notifications to the media to alert the public on the burn and smoke that may be visible to residents in surrounding communities or transportation corridors.

For more information and questions on the upcoming prescribed burns and Fire Management Program, the public can visit the BLM Las Cruces District at 1800 Marquess Street in Las Cruces or call 575-525-4300. The BLM’s website at www.blm.gov/programs/public-safety-and-fire/fire-and-aviation www.inciweb.nwcg.gov/ also provides important and timely fire information to the public.

Deborah Stevens is a public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management Las Cruces District Office.

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