It will take more than the sprinkling of rain that fell over the weekend to reduce the current extreme fire hazard, say Uinta National Forest officials.
Forest service personnel were stationed at the entrances of most local canyon recreation areas Friday and Saturday, stopping vehicles and explaining fire restrictions to motorists. The traffic blockades were called off late Saturday because of the cooler weather. Loyal Clark, public information officer for the Uinta National Forest, said a decision on whether to continue the weekend traffic stops will be made later this week."If people comply with the restrictions, and the weather stays cool and rainy we won't need to continue," Clark said.
While forest officials try to prevent the start of additional fires, plans are already being made to repair burned areas.
Paul Skabelund, watershed specialist for the Uinta National Forest, made a field review of the Fort Canyon and Wallsburg Ridge fire areas last week.
He estimated that of the 390 acres burned in Fort Canyon, 178 acres suffered a high-intensity burn that destroyed most of the vegetation. That acreage, Skabelund said, will be reseeded later this fall. Vegetation that was not critically burned is expected to re-sprout.
"This area (severely burned area) is on the south-facing slopes and is critical deer winter range," said Skabelund. He said officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources estimate 35 elk winter on the slopes, along with an unknown number of deer.
At the Wallsburg Ridge fire, Skabelund said 237 acres of Forest Service property suffered a high-intensity burn. The Forest Service plans to reseed 151 of those acres.
Skabelund said the Forest Service will wait for a significant rainfall before beginning aerial reseeding, although some reseeding has been done in tractor lines below the fire boundary in Fort Canyon.
Reseeding will be done with low-growing species that provide ground cover that restores critical watershed protection and provides forage for wildlife.
Skabelund said revegetated areas take a year and a half to achieve good coverage and protection. The ground cover should be back to normal in three to five years.
Revegetation efforts in Fort Canyon are expected to cost $4,100, although costs could run as high as $11,000. Actual costs will depend on the availability of seeds and whether native species or related species are used.
Skabelund said flood and mudslide potential in the burned areas will be high next spring and summer.
"The potential will not be quite as bad in Fort Canyon as it was at Squaw Creek (the foothills above Lindon that were burned in a fire last year) because the soil is more sandy in Alpine," Skabelund said.
Also, a large slide occurred in 1983 in the right fork of Fort Canyon, reducing current slide risk.
Skabelund cautioned property owners close to the stream to pay attention to spring and summer rainstorms, however.
"We couldn't find a suitable spot for a debris basin, and hope our revegetation efforts will do the job," he said.