The Harney County Wildfire Collaborative (HCWC) wants to ensure the protection of “the best of the best”. Areas of highest interest are valuable ecological sites; land at highest risk to catastrophic wildfires, areas where there is highest potential for ecological change or uplift and areas where there has been substantial investment in restoration.
Some of the issues that HCWC considered when deciding on a particular area to begin focusing efforts included:
• the need to identify the level of risk of fire presented at a site,
• the level of fuel accumulation and probability of that site burning,
• the length of time since the last fire and the presence of annual grasses on the site.
• explore proactive issues or concerns with a focus on areas of greatest impact,
• the site must allow for the ability to manage for sage grouse habitat and the ability to return to desired state,
• the viability of the site and the ability to increase resilience/resistance of the site,
• the availability of infrastructure (usable roads, water sources),
• the willingness of permittees to participate and a cost/benefit or risk to working at the site,
• when contemplating public lands there are NEPA considerations to take into account.
All of the above are categorized into overall site value propositions including economic, wildlife, recreation, and historic values.
Pueblo Mountains Area
After sifting through the above criteria the HCWC in 2016 selected the Pueblo Mountains Area in the southern part of Harney County and Burns BLM District. This was still a very large area and far too large to effectively manage as a pilot project. A subcommittee was created and tasked with delineating the area into smaller subunits. The subcommittee utilized GIS mapping overlays of several factors such as fire risk modeling, Wilderness Study Area history, wildlife concerns, and Sage-Grouse PACs. Considerable time was spent to identify values, threats and resources for each subunit. Next subunits were ranked in order of priority. A detailed description of these results can be found in the subcommittee notes (June 2016). Ultimately the subunit on the southwestern flanks of Pueblo Mountains consisting of 26,400 Acres was selected as the focus for the project area.
Pueblo Mountains Project Prevention Plan
The Pueblo Mountains subcommittee recommendation was brought back to the entire collaborative to discuss potential tools, the utilization of State and Transition modeling, funding, and designing a monitoring plan. Ideas were brainstormed about how to improve response time, possibly through early detection cameras, or better road access and road improvements. The overarching goals were revisited on how to improve and maintain desirable ecological conditions and explored water development opportunities. The final consensus was to utilize a combination of tools: including targeted grazing, prescribed burning, herbicide application, and seeding.
Find much more about the Pueblo Mountains Project here.
Implementation began summer 2019. The following video and images were taken during this implementation work.