Field trip to the Seeley fire burn area
> The Emery County Public Lands Council took a field trip to the Seeley Fire burn scar as well as other areas of the Manti-LaSal forest on Aug. 16.
The purpose of the trip was to educate the lands council members and acquaint them with the projects ongoing on the forest.
The first stop was Nuck Woodward canyon where road work is going on to repair damage caused by flooding. The road into Stuart Guard Station is also being repaired.
The next stop was Engineer Canyon where flood water flows have deposited large boulders across an area that was being looked at for possible camp spots and parking. The forest service has determined now this might not be a good location for camping and will look at alternatives in the area.
Other stops included a look at the fire line, improvements to camping in the Lake Canyon area and areas where timber is being harvested. Fuels reduction projects at Joe's Valley were also toured.
Some of the rehabilitation work on the forest has included turning the downed trees sideways to act as natural breaks for debris and water.
In discussing the Seeley fire the forest service employees said the conditions were prime for a fire of this type. With all the dead beetle killed trees and the dry conditions fire was inevitable at some point.
The forest officials said old controlled burn areas, seemed to fare better in the fire than areas that have never burned. In 2009 there was a controlled burn in Tie Fork that burned 2,000-3,000 acres and when the Seeley Fire arrived there it stopped at the old burn. This also happened in Engineer Canyon. This is proof that controlled burns really do work to remove the built up fuels.
Public Lands Director Ray Petersen encouraged the forest service officials to look at new areas for camping if they have to close any areas off due to damages from flooding and camp spots in dangerous areas. The campground below Stuart Guard station has flooded several times and may be closed for a while. In South Hughes the tables and the fire ring have been removed and put into storage.
Plans were in the works for more controlled burns in Huntington Canyon before the Seeley fire made these burns unnecessary.
Darren Olsen, forest ranger for the Ferron office said even though things look black and burned in areas, there is regeneration. You can see new grass growing in the burn areas. There are some aspen shoots up about a foot high already in some areas. Fire is necessary for regeneration and encouraging new growth. Fire can be good and beneficial, but Olsen said it's tough to see the burned areas and many things have changed in the canyon, but the users must adapt and get used to the way things are now. Especially they need to be aware and alert when using the canyon to avoid being injured by flooding.
Even if it isn't raining where you are, debris flows can travel for miles. Olsen said safety is the biggest factor now in the canyon. Debris flows can cover the main highway in a matter of minutes which has been shown in flooding events this summer. As winter approaches users need to be very careful when traveling through the burn area which is an area approximately 10 miles from Crandall Canyon to below Electric Lake.
Utah Department of Transportation continues to work in the Pole Canyon area where SR-31 has been hit the hardest with road damage. SR-31 is currently open and will remain open, but motorists need to be alert that the road can close at any time due to flooding.