News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

See you in the woods

Happy spring! We hope folks enjoyed the recent Sisters Rodeo, an event the Forest Service is proud to partner with by way of a special use permit and employee participation in the wonderful Rodeo Parade.

As daytime temperatures continue to increase, we will likely pause our prescribed fire program until the fall. This was a very successful spring for under-burning on the Sisters Ranger District, burning over two square miles (1,430 acres), including many long standing high-priority areas adjacent to homes and other infrastructure. We also used aerial ignitions with an un-crewed aerial system (UAS, aka drone) for the first time on a prescribed fire on the district.

Some people have asked why we burn on windy days. In essence, we need wind to disperse smoke away from populated areas and to achieve desired ecological fire effects. Wind speeds on the burn unit itself are typically much lower than those in open areas due to the sheltering effect of trees. If wind does blow embers across the holding line, we have crews and engines patrolling the burn perimeter to quickly squash any spot fires that may ignite.

We do not burn unless we have both the right predicted wind speed and direction, we receive site-specific spot weather forecasts from the National Weather Service prior to ignitions, and we monitor on-site wind speed/direction hourly while burning to make sure we stay within authorized prescriptions.

We have focused on protecting, maintaining, and improving essential infrastructure such as utilities and roads over the last year. Some examples are the recent authorization to reduce hazardous fuels around the City of Sisters water reservoir near Edgington Road. We also permitted utility connections to a cellular tower, with priority for first responders. And we authorized Central Electric Co-op (CEC) to clear their power line corridor along Forest Service Road 2058/North Pine Street for fire safety. Conversations with CEC employees about a similar project implemented near Camp Sherman revealed that there were also fewer winter power outages and disruptions following line clearing. The federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that “(Energy reliability),, is vital to human health, safety, and well-being and the nation’s economic prosperity and security. Reliable energy keeps life-saving hospital equipment and communications systems operating, buildings at safe temperatures with good ventilation, and much more.”

Another form of infrastructure we are investing in is our forest road system. Our dedicated employees are working on repairing and maintaining several popular road systems this spring including the 12 and 14 roads near Camp Sherman, the 1230 and 1234 roads near Jack Creek and Lake, and the 11 and 1170 roads near Green Ridge. Our forest road crew will have recently graded the 16 road (Three Creek Road), with the gate scheduled to be opened the morning of June 12. Other forms of infrastructure improvement include the Whychus Creek Overlook retrofit, largely funded by grants and our partner Sisters Trails Alliance. Sometimes infrastructure is just not worth the investment to maintain, as is the case with a dilapidated and condemned bridge crossing the Metolius River that we plan on removing next month.

Spring is a prime time for recreational shooting, a valid use of the national forest. We ask that shooters follow safe practices including using an appropriate backstop and not shooting near or across occupied areas, trails, or roads. A free brochure showcasing nearby suitable shooting areas is available at the ranger station or you can search The Nugget archives. We do need shooters to remove all trash when they are done, including used targets and spent casings or shells. Exploding targets, tracer bullets, and fireworks are ALWAYS prohibited on the national forest.

Spring also means wildflowers. It’s still too early to see the floral show at high-country spots like Canyon Creek Meadows, but close to town you will find gorgeous displays of lupine, paintbrush, balsamroot, and buckwheat.

Finally, we welcome two new permanent employees: supervisory wildlife biologist Laura McMahon, and fish biologist Nate Dachtler, who replaced longtime district employee Mike Riehle. Our station is open during construction for firewood and mushroom permits, maps, or just answering questions about trip planning.

See you in the woods!


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