With Colorado's Drought Over, Will Prescribed Fire Be a Priority?

After a big winter and wet spring, one might think Colorado has the perfect conditions for increased prescribed burning. Turns out it's more complicated than that.

Some forest managers in Colorado see an opportunity to increase burning this year. Kevin Grant, deputy state fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Colorado, echoes many of Donaldson’s comments about the challenges of burning when it’s wet, but says his teams have already made good progress this year. “I don’t know that our strategy has changed,” Grant says, “But we’ve had more opportunities to burn this spring.”

According to Grant, BLM crews burned about 800 acres in Colorado in May 2019, whereas land was so dry in May 2018 that his teams weren’t able to put down any prescribed fire.

However, experts point out that prescribed burning on some other lands isn’t as simple as taking flame to the forest. Prescribed burns may take months, sometimes years, to plan. And wet weather isn’t always a good thing. “You’d think we’d be trying to do more prescribed fire when this opportunity comes up with a wet spring, but there are other issues we’re contending with,” says Gabe Donaldson of The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.

— 5280, Denver’s Mile High Magazine