Burned area emergency stabilization plan




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INTERAGENCY

BURNED AREA EMERGENCY STABILIZATION PLAN
WALLOW FIRE
VEGETATION RESOURCES ASSESSMENT

I. OBJECTIVES


  • Evaluate and assess fire and suppression impacts to vegetative resources.




  • Determine emergency stabilization needs to aid in vegetative recovery and soil stabilization efforts and to mitigate impacts to sensitive plant species.




  • Evaluate the potential for non-native invasive plant species encroachment into native plant communities and sensitive plant species habitat within the fire area and determine stabilization needs to mitigate encroachment.




  • Assess forests health and recovery.


II. ISSUES


  • Identify and mitigate hazard trees created as a result of the fire.




  • Potential for invasion of impacted lands by noxious weeds and non-native invasive plant species.




  • Requirement of Tribes to use certified weed-free erosion stabilization materials.




  • Fire and suppression damage to wetlands and cienegas




  • Cattle impacts on vegetation recovery




  • Feral horse impacts on vegetation recovery




  • Long-term Effects on Forest Health




  • Potential timber and firewood salvage


III. OBSERVATIONS
A. Background
This report addresses known and potential impacts to vegetation communities by Wallow fire and suppression activities. It specifically addresses issues presented by Tribal and Agency resource staff, and provides recommendations. This plan may be cited as a justification document to seek outside funding from other sources for recommended treatments not covered by Emergency Stabilization (ES) funds. Additional supplemental requests may be made after this document has been reviewed and approved. Burned area emergency stabilization and rehabilitation policy and procedures are discussed on pages 165-166 of the Fort Apache Agency 2005-2014 Forest Management Plan, and on pages 149 – 152 of the San Carlos Wildland Fire Management Plan.
The burned area encompasses a total of 12,959 acres within the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and 9,162 acres on the San Carlos Indian Reservation for a total of 22,423 acres of Apache land. The Wallow Fire burned a total of 538,048 acres as of the time of this report.
Findings and recommendations discussed in this assessment are based upon information obtained from personal observations, interviews with Tribal and BIA natural resource managers, and other BAER team members.
Vegetation
Vegetation communities were lightly impacted by the fire. The majority of the fire on the Fort Apache and San Carlos Indian reservations was low intensity, understory burn with minimal mature tree mortality. Active forest management practices, within the burned area resulted in a limited number of acres classified as high and moderate soil burn severity. The high soil burn severity area on SCA was due to excess fuel loads attributed to forest management restrictions placed on Mexican Spotted Owl PACs. Soil burn severity acreages for Tribal lands were as follows:
Soil Burn Severity (Acres)




Unburned

Low

Moderate

High

SCA

3,426

4,828

833

75

FTA

3,446

9,100

400

13

Understory grasses and forbs had already started to re-sprout and were observed while conducting the field reconnaissance. Fire in the cienegas only burned the tops of the grasses and left the roots intact. Most Tribal, Agency, and BAER personnel agree that the burned area on the two reservations will have few, if any, lasting negative impacts.


Listed below are descriptions of the timber and woodland strata on the Reservation found within the perimeter of the Wallow Fire.
TIMBER TYPES
Pine-Pinyon/Juniper
This forest type is dominated by ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Associated tree species include Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), white fir (Abies concolor), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), junipers, and other hardwood species, Southwestern white pine (Pinus Strobiformis) is a minor component. Grass dominates the understory. This forest type is typically found at elevations ranging from 5,500 feet to 7,000 feet.
Pine-Grass-Gambel Oak
This forest type is dominated by ponderosa pine with associate tree species of Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli), Douglas-fir, and southwestern white pine. Occasional species include junipers, pinyon pine, and other hardwood species. Understory vegetation consists of grass, forbs, and/or shrubs. This type is typically found at elevations ranging from 5,500 to 7,000 feet.
Mixed Conifer
This forest type is composed primarily of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, and white fir with associate species being southwestern white pine, Gambel oak, and other hardwood species. This type is typically found at elevations ranging from 6,500 to 9,000 feet.
Riparian Forest
Riparian obligate forest associations are dominated by Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremonti), and/or narrowleaf cottonwood (Populus Angustifolia), and willow species (Salix spp.). Minor tree associations may include Arizona alder (Alnus oblongifolia), thin leaf alder (Alnus tenufolia), and non-riparian obligate species such as inland boxelder (Acer negundo), ash (Fraxinus spp.), Arizona walnut (Juglans major), and sycamore (Platanus wrightii).

Management Direction
San Carlos Indian Reservation
Management direction for the San Carlos Indian Reservation is contained in the 2004 - 2015 Forest Management Plan (FMP) and the 2003 Wildland Fire Management Plan (WFMP).
Reservation-wide forest management objectives are found in Chapter 3, Table 3-1, of the FMP and include the following statements relating to this assessment:

  • A1 - Develop, maintain, and enhance commercial forest lands in a perpetually productive state.

  • A8 – Actively pursue the reforestation of burned and denuded areas to attain desired stocking levels on sites capable of producing commercial timber.

  • A9 – Maintain and improve the system of continuous forest inventory (CFI) plots to provide accurate growth and mortality information.

  • A13 – Harvest the ACC so that dead and dying timber is utilized through a system of salvage sales and permit cuttings, if these activities are determined to be consistant with other management objectives.

Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR)


Management direction for the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (FAIR) is contained in the 2005 - 2015 Forest Management Plan (FMP) and the 2004 Wildland Fire Management Plan (WFMP).

(Due to the complexity of the Fire Management program on the Fort apache Indian Reservation, the Wildland Fire Management Plan is contained in a separate document from the FMP.)


Reservation-wide forest management objectives are found in Chapter 1 (pages 13 and 14) of the FMP and include the following statements relating to stabilization and rehabilitation:


  • Minimize threat to life and property, and damage to forests, soils and watersheds from catastrophic wildfire through effective fire prevention, enforcement, pre-suppression, and suppression programs.

  • Manage natural and activity-created wildland fuels to reduce wildfire size, intensity, behavior, and threat to life and property.

  • Implement necessary and appropriate rehabilitation treatments on burned lands to minimize damage to soils, watersheds, and infrastructure in accordance with the BIA Wildland Fire and Aviation Program Management and Operations Guide.

  • Reduce losses of timber resources by recovering mortality through the application of appropriate marking guidelines and salvage logging.

Reservation-wide natural resources goals and protection standards (Chapter 2 in the Forest Management Plan) further states on page 22 that fire rehabilitation will be performed in accordance with the Department of Interior Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation Handbook.


Burned areas from the Wallow Fire on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation fall primarily into the WFMP Fire Management Zone 2 (FMZ 2). This FMZ is composed of ponderosa pine, grass, and Gambel oak vegetation types. This fire regime is considered non-lethal in the pine type and mixed lethal in the mixed conifer type. FMZ 2 contains the following forest types with their corresponding fuel models:

  • Pine with grass – Fuel Model 2

  • Pine with needle cast – Fuel Model 9

  • Conifer with heavy fuel loading – Fuel Model 10

  • Light slash – Fuel Model 11

There is also a minor component of FMZ 1 within the fire perimeter on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. This Fire Management Zone is composed of spruce/fir and mixed conifer vegetation types.

Tree Damage and Mortality
Numerous factors influence post-fire tree mortality, including: season the damage occurred, pre-fire tree vigor/site quality, extent of crown damage, extent of cambium damage, post-fire stand density/competition, post-fire climatic conditions, and insect/disease damage. The following guidelines were derived largely from research by Wagener (1961) and other sources as noted:
Season: Conifers are most susceptible to fire damage early in the growing season because retention of sufficient green foliage is necessary to carry the tree through the remainder of the growing season and provide some food reserves for the following year. Because the fire occurred just as buds were beginning to elongate, even moderate levels of crown scorch can be expected to have serious effects on tree vigor and mortality levels.
Tree Vigor/Site Quality: Younger, more vigorous trees on good sites have a better chance of survival than over mature trees on poor sites.
Crown Damage: The amount of live crown remaining, as distinguished from green foliage, is the most important single factor in survival of fire-scorched ponderosa pine. Green needle bases indicate that the surrounding parts of the crown are still alive; conversely, darkened needles and needles "frozen" in position in the direction of fire-run are unmistakable indicators the surrounding crown is dead. The minimum green foliage requirement for vigorous ponderosa pine survival of an early season (before July 1) burn is estimated to be 35 percent of the pre-fire crown. In species with slender twigs and small terminal buds, as in Douglas-fir, foliage kill and bud and twig kill are approximately the same as that which will be present in succeeding years. The minimum post-fire survival criteria for moderately vigorous trees, those growing on a poor site, or following a mid season (July) fire, is 40-45 percent of the pre-fire crown.
Cambium Damage: Based on preliminary results, Ryan (1990) has reported that, in the absence of significant crown injury, most trees survive up to 25 percent basal girdling, whereas few survive more than 75 percent.
Post-Fire Stand Density and Competing Plants: Potter and Foxx (1979) reported decreased recovery as stand density increased above 130 trees per acre. Another contributing factor cited for poor recovery was competition from seeded grass.
Hydrophobic soils will occur under dense stands of brush following intense fires but breaks down within a few weeks, usually after the first major rain. Experience has shown that grass seeding and mulching are the best defense against runoff from hydrophobic soils.


B Reconnaissance Methodology and Findings

The following is in response to the issues presented at the Agency in-brief on June 21st at the Fort Apache Agency’s Rick Lupe Fire Center.




  1. Tree Hazards

Roads within the burned area were surveyed by vehicle for hazard trees. Hazard trees have been mitigated by Wallow Fire Suppression Personnel on the both Reservations.





  1. Forest Mortality

The degree of fire-related mortality was determined by aerial survey on June 22, and on-the-ground by BAER foresters June 22 - 23, San Carlos Tribal forester, and Fort Apache Agency Forestry staff. Forest mortality was classified into two categories: 100% mortality and less than 10% mortality of the mature trees. Active forest management on both Reservations limited mortality.


Forest Mortality




< 10% Mortality

>90% Mortality

Total Acres

SCA

7,929 acres

1,233 acres

9,162

FTS

12,052 acres

907 acres

12,959

3. Salvage of Timber Mortality


A potential timber salvage operation is being developed by Fort Apache Agency Forestry Staff. An estimated 8 MMBF (8 million board feet) of dead timber could be salvaged off of 917 acres of mortality. The salvage volume is 99% ponderosa pine. This volume was calculated from Tonto Timber Sale stand exams and follows the Reservation 7 Salvage specifications of a minimum 6” top diameter with a 16’ log providing that “the purchaser shall not be required to utilize lengths less than 16’ in length.” Any changes in specifications will, of course, change final volume figures. The Reservation 7 Salvage package was signed and passed by the White Mountain Apache Tribe on June 1, 2011 but awaits final approval by the BIA Regional Director in Phoenix, Arizona.
A potential salvage timber sale is also being developed by San Carlos Tribal Forestry staff. They estimate that 134,000 cubic feet will be salvage from 753 acres. The majority of the salvage trees will be in the 10 -12 inch diameter range.
4. CFI plots
The continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) is used by forest management to monitor forest volume, growth data, insect and disease problems, tree condition and other data. Trees are tagged and re-measured approximately every ten years. 43 CFI plots are known to reside inside White Mountain fire boundary, and 46 CFI plots are within the San Carlos fire boundary. No plots were visited during the field recon, but all should be evaluated for damage.
5. Threatened & Endangered (T & E) Plants
The Tribal range conservationist was contacted for vegetative information for the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the ethnobotanist for the San Carlos Apache Tribe. No T&E plant species reside within the Wallow Fire boundary on either reservation.


  1. Spread of Noxious and Invasive Species

The Tribal range conservationist was contacted for vegetative information for the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and the ethnobotanist was contacted for the San Carlos Apache Tribe. No known noxious and/or invasive weed species are currently mapped within the fire perimeter on either reservation. The volume of fire traffic on reservation roads, and the lack of vehicle wash stations early on in the incident, would suggest some weeds were transported onto Tribal land. The Fort Apache Indian Reservation also hosted the Horseshoe Incident Command Post (ICP), and the San Carlos Indian Reservation hosted the Point of Pines ICP. The ICP’s are high traffic areas, and are prone to weed invasion. These locations will need to be monitored to determine if any noxious weed invasions occur after the fire. During a field visit of Soldier Springs, thistle plants were observed along Soldier Springs Creek. It is believed the weed seed was brought in with the gavel stockpiled near the spring. On the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, wild iris, a non-native species, is found throughout the reservation.




  1. Wetlands and Cienegas

Fort Apache - A cat line crossed the cienaga southeast of Reservation Lake. This line was repaired and seeded by suppression personnel. A high-elevation native seed mix specified by Fort Apache Agency forestry staff was used for the rehab.





  1. Cattle Impacts

Fort Apache - The Tribal range conservationist was contacted for grazing information for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. On the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, the fire burned 12,959 acres of the 138,326 acre Tribal Herd range unit. Currently, the I.D. Ranch runs 300 cows, with an estimated 20% having calves, 40 bulls, and 102 yearlings. The current actual animal units are estimated at 370 out of 483 allocated or 76% utilization (Stocking Rate of WMAT in Range Units, 2011). The fire is not expected to negatively impact the Tribal Herd and the herd is not expected to impact the vegetative recovery. However, management options would be increased with the repair of the Reservation boundary fence and the cross fences within the Tribal Herd range unit.




  1. Trespass Livestock

Fort Apache - The Fort Apache Indian Reservation has feral horses that move on and off the reservation. The number of horses is estimated at up to 200. Twelve where observed in the Pair O’ Dice Cienega on June 22 and again on June 23rd. No BAER treatments will be impacted by the horses, so no action will be taken under BAER policy to remove or exclude horses. The horses are expected to have little effect on the vegetative recovery. However, management and removal options for the feral horses would be increased with the repair of the Reservation boundary fence and the cross fences within the Tribal Herd range unit.




  1. Weed-Free Mulch and Straw

San Carlos – No Straw or mulch was used within the Reservation




  1. Application of Native Seed

San Carlos – The specified weed free seed mix for suppression rehab was provided by the San Carlos Apache Tribal forestry staff.





      1. RECOMMENDATIONS




    1. Emergency Stabilization Specifications

Specification #4 & #8 – Invasive Species Assessment


After the monsoon season, assess for noxious weeds/non-native invasive plant species on reservation lands burned within the perimeter of the Wallow fire. Sites for detection will be previously known locations, roadways, hand lines, retardant drops, and other disturbed areas. Inventory all known sites with high probability of an increase in invasive species populations. These high probability sites include those areas disturbed by hand or dozer line, increased road use, and other disturbed areas. Approximately 500 acres will be assessed on the Fort Apache Reservation, and 500 on the San Carlos Reservation.



    1. Management Recommendations, Non-Specific


Salvage of Commercial Timber – Salvage commercial timber within accessible high mortality areas.
Insect Population Monitoring – Monitor insect activity by way of aerial and ground surveys.
CFI Plot Evaluation – Locate, survey, and where necessary, retag CFI plots damaged or destroyed by fire.
Boundary and Range Fencing – Repair or replace reservation boundary fence and cross fences.
Trespass Livestock - Remove feral horses from reservation lands.
V. CONSULTATIONS
Lynn Polacca, BIA Fort Apache Agency Deputy Superintendent (928)338-5321
Robert LaCapa, BIA Fort Apache Agency Forest Manager (928)338-5306

Jonathan Brooks, WMAT Tribal Forest Manager (928)338-1665


Jere McLemore, BIA Fort Apache Agency Pre-Sales Supervisory Forester (928)338-5309
Sisto Hernandez, WMAT Land Operations & Range Management (928) 205-5018
Juliette Nabahe, BIA Fort Apache Agency Environmental Quality Services (928)338-5356
Cynthia Dale, WMAT T&E Species Specialist (928)338-4385
Rachel Enfield, WMAT GIS Manager (928)338-1650
Joe Ringelberg, BIA Fort Apache Agency Supervisory Forester (928)338-5393
Jay Harr, BIA Fort Apache Agency Timber Sales Forester (928)338-5394
Dee Randall, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Forest Manager (928)475-2326
Kelly Hetzler, Inventory Forester/GIS, San Carlos Apache Tribe (928)475-2326
Robert Hetzler, Soil Scientist/GIS, San Carlos Apache Tribe (928)475-2326
Dan Pitterle, Fire Management Program Manager, San Carlos Apache Tribe (928)475-2326
Paul Buck, Soil Conservationist, San Carlos Apache Tribe (928)475-2326
Seth Pilsk, Ethnobotany, San Carlos Apache Tribe (928)475-2326
REFERENCES
San Carlos Forest Management Plan, 2004 – 2015
San Carlos Wildland Fire Management Plan, 2003
Bureau of Indian Affairs. 2005. Fort Apache Agency/White Mountain Apache Tribe Forest Management Plan (2005-2014). 362 pp.
Fort Apache Agency/White Mountain Apache Tribe. 2004. Wildland Fire Management Plan. 140 pp.
Miller, J.M. 1929. Why the Western Pine Beetle Follows Fire. Forest Worker, 5(4):16-17.
Miller, J.M. and F.P. Keen. 1960. Biology and Control of the Western Pine Beetle. USDA Misc. Pub. 800. 381p.
Potter, L.D. and T. Foxx. 1979. Recovery and Delayed Mortality on Ponderosa Pine after Wildfire. Final Report, Contract No. 16-608-GR; EC-291. Biology Dept., Univ. of New Mexico, 33p.
Ryan, K.C. 1990. Predicting Prescribed Fire Effects on Trees in the Interior West. In M.E. Alexander and G.F. Bisgrove., tech. coord., The Art and Science of Fire Management: Proceedings of the First Interior West Fire Council Annual Meeting and Workshop, Kananaskis Village, Alberta, October 24-27, 1988. pp148-162.
Salman, K.A. 1934. Entomological Factors Affect Salvaging of Fire-Injured Trees. J.For., 32:1016-1017.

Region 3 Hazard Tree Assessment Tatum Guide. Rocky Mountain Research Station, Flagstaff, AZ.
Stocking Rate of WMAT in Range Units, 2011


Eric Rhodenbaugh, Forest Manager, BIA – Wind River Agency (307) 332-3719



Ron Miller, Supervisory Forester, BIA - Fort Apache Agency (928) 338-5312



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