SARATOGA SPRINGS — Fearing that public activity such as four-wheeling will disturb reseeded areas in the burn scar of the Dump Fire west of Saratoga Springs, the school trust lands administration announced it is closing all access to its property through mid-November.
The closure was ordered at the request of the city in cooperation with the Utah County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Land Management, which owns the bulk of the 5,500 acres charred in the fire last summer. BLM officials say they intend to enforce restrictions as well to help vegetation in the reseeded areas take hold and prevent additional erosion.
Many of the neighborhoods down slope of last summer's fire remain vulnerable to mud and debris flows that could start by rain in the coming months.
The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration worked in partnership with multiple agencies such as the state Division of Wildlife Resources and the BLM to have the burn scar mechanically chained and reseeded in the fall.
"The costs of these types of projects are very significant," said Kevin Carter, executive director of SITLA. "We and other partners associated with this project are doing whatever is necessary to ensure its success.”
Carter said the landowners are particularly concerned about the impacts of off-highway vehicles, which can churn up the soil and evaporate any progress made in the revegetation efforts.
While the SITLA closure impacts its 500 acres in the burn area, all agencies are looking to eliminate public destruction of the reseeded land.
"It’s our hope that the public will see the wisdom in this action and will voluntarily comply with the order," said Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy, warning, however, that violators could be hit with a class B misdemeanor and accompanying fine of $600.
The Dump Fire led to the evacuations of hundreds of northern Utah County residents and was one of 33 fires in 10 counties last year linked to target shooting, according to SITLA.
The administration threw its support behind legislation that passed this last session that gives the state forester, in cooperation with the county sheriff, the authority to prohibit target shooting on state lands should hazardous fire conditions exist.
Cessation of target shooting during high hazard fire weather is subject to review every two weeks.