Monday, 17 November 2003
Monitoring mechanical fuel reduction projects in ponderosa pine forests of Devils Tower National Monument and Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Build up of fuel loads, ladder fuels, and tree densities has made it difficult to safely apply prescribed fire to some forested areas without first applying a mechanical fuel reduction treatment. Mechanical fuel reduction projects are currently under way at two national park units in the Northern Great Plains: Devils Tower National Monument and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Hand felling with chainsaws and hand piling was utilized on both projects and no material was removed from the sites. Two different monitoring methods were used for these two projects. Standard National Park Service Fire Monitoring Handbook (FMH) protocols were used at Devils Tower while a simplified circular plot for tree density and fuel transects were implemented at Mount Rushmore. The North Terrace unit at Devils Tower is a 80 ha (200 acre) unit that was mechanically thinned fall 2001. The treatment prescription called for removal of trees < 15 cm (6 in) DBH. Pole sized (> 2.5 cm and < 15 cm DBH) tree densities were reduced from over 1000 stems/ha (400 stems/acre) to 24 stems/ha (10 stems/acre). Approximately 2200 slash piles were burned during the winters of 2001 and 2002. Prescribed fire is planned for fall 2003. The 46 ha (115 acre) Lafferty Gulch unit at Mount Rushmore has been designated as Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI). During the summer of 2003, trees < 15 cm (6 in) DBH were removed while leaving 48 stems/ha (20 stems/acre) throughout the unit. An estimated 2500 slash piles were created during this project and if weather permits these piles will be burned winter 2003. Before fuel reduction, this dense stand had an average ponderosa pine density of 1488 stems/ha (603 stems/A), basal area of 27 m2/ha (116 ft2/A), and fuel load of 81 metric ton/ha (36 ton/A). Monitoring plots will be re-sampled fall 2003. Once data collection is completed this fall, the two methods for monitoring fuel reduction projects will be compared.