Containment strategy to be implemented on the Government Fire

WILLIAMS – Fire officials on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest have carefully considered their options and have elected to actively work toward containment of the Government Fire. Smoke impacts to rural communities have been consistent throughout the summer months and with the fall schedule for prescribed burning still ahead, the decision to limit smoke exposure to both the public and firefighters was made.

“Although this was another great opportunity to have natural fire play a beneficial role in improving forest health in our community, we recognize that there are still other important issues to consider” said Jeremy Human South Zone Fire Management Officer. “Air quality is certainly one of our priorities and after the amount of smoke our communities have already endured this year, we felt this was the best decision at this time”.

The Government Fire, discovered on August 4, has been moderately growing near the top of Government Hill just south of Spring Valley and north of Parks near the Sanderson Pass area. Firefighters will begin constructing control lines today and will continue to take actions to reach full containment over the weekend. Rain is forecasted over the next few days and is expected to help stop any further progression of the fires movement.

Smoke will continue to be noticeable at times. Light effects may drift into the surrounding rural areas during the late evening and early morning hours but is expected to diminish rapidly.

The lightning caused Government fire is currently just over 6 acres at this time.

Motorists are reminded to always use caution when driving near areas where fire is occurring and be aware of unexpected conditions when smoke is present.

Additional fire information for the Kaibab National Forest can be obtained from InciWeb at: inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5483/ or call the Kaibab National Forest Fire Information Phone Line at (928) 635-8311; Text Message – text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404.

Crews respond to a new lightning caused wildfire on the Williams Ranger District

WILLIAMS – Fire crews on the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest are responding to a new lightning caused fire start called the “Government Fire”. The Government Fire was discovered August 4, and has grown to approximately 6 acres in size. It is located on the southwest slope Government Hill just south of Spring Valley and north of Parks near the Sanderson Pass area.The Government Fire is burning in a mixed conifer and ponderosa pine fuel type. Recent moisture from monsoonal rains has dampened the environment considerably, however the fire is expanding moderately burning through available dead and down fuels near the top of the peak. Officials will continue to monitor this incident as wet weather is forecast over the next few days. Fire behavior is expected to be minimal as precipitation moves into the vicinity.

Officials recognize the concerns people have about wildfires that occur relatively close to private property within residential communities. However when fuel moisture is elevated and fire intensity is low, opportunities to allow fire to consume hazardous fuel loads can be beneficial in reducing the risks associated with living in forested areas. The end result will ultimately lower a future threat of a potentially devastating wildfire which can threaten homes and be very difficult to control.

Smoke may be visible from the surrounding communities of Parks, Spring Valley, Pittman Valley, and from the Interstate 40 corridor. Smoke impacts are predicted to be light in the neighboring communities and will be monitored closely.

Kaibab National Forest employee captures first image of rare beetle

Art Gonzales and his family love exploring the outdoors and identifying species. Photo by Gonzales family. Kaibab National Forest photo.

WILLIAMS – A Kaibab National Forest employee recently captured the first and only known image of a rare beetle.

Art Gonzales, who is currently serving as the acting district ranger for the Williams and Tusayan districts of the Kaibab National Forest, was out with his family this summer near an earthen stock tank on the Williams Ranger District when he came across a beetle that, until now, had no photographic evidence in the scientific literature.

Gonzales, who is an avid birder, can now not only claim fame for his prized photo of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle but also for it being selected as the “Observation of the Week” on the free online platform iNaturalist.org. At the beginning of 2017, the Kaibab National Forest began a citizen science project to identify and document the biodiversity of the forest by encouraging visitors and employees alike to take photos of plants and animals and post them to the project page using the iNaturalist app.

Photo of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle that was submitted to iNaturalist. Photo by Art Gonzales, Kaibab National Forest.

In what was described as an important observation of its taxon by iNaturalist, the Typocerus gloriosus beetle did not have any image sources available until the submission by Gonzales, according to Boris Büche, who is described as “an invaluable beetle expert on iNaturalist who currently has 48,662 identifications.”

Büche used The Cerambycidae of North America guide to identify the observation and added, “In 1976, no more than five specimens were known to science. It is readily identified by its colour pattern, being one of the most beautiful, and most scarce Longhorn beetles on U.S. territory.”

Gonzales, who is known as “birding4fun” on iNaturalist and currently has 593 observations, is an avid outdoorsman and is fascinated with learning about the biodiversity that exists in the Kaibab National Forest. Gonzales said he and a former colleague became engrossed in birding as a hobby, and with it came the stimulation of finding new places, discovering species and the thrill of the chase.

“All those feelings of excitement I got from the chase, identifying new birds, and visiting new locations happened again as I caught the iNaturalist bug,” he explains. “Now I find myself trying to identify just about every living organism I walk past, which makes for some seriously long short walks. Despite my years of being outdoors, I am blown away by how many more life forms I have learned to identify in just the last few months.”

The Kaibab National Forest created its year-long citizen science project with a couple goals in mind. First, biologists and planners hope to increase knowledge of plant and animal species, especially unusual or rare ones such as the Typocerus gloriosus beetle, and to inform the overall species list for the forest as well as management approach. Second, forest managers see the project as a way to build relationships with local communities and visitors, creating an opportunity for shared stewardship and turning visitors into scientists and champions of public lands and the resources they offer.

“Our iNaturalist citizen science project has also helped the employees of the Kaibab National Forest connect kids at the local school to nature through a project called the Williams Middle School BioBlitz,” Gonzales said. “It’s a fantastic way to get kids outdoors.”

Gonzales encourages all visitors to and employees of the Kaibab National Forest to get involved in making observations. The discovery of the Typocerus gloriosus beetle is filling in missing gaps of information about the elusive species and providing invaluable documentation to forest managers. But, Gonzales admits that “secretly” he and a coworker seem to be in a race to find the most species on the forest, which not only serves as a source of motivation but also fun and inspiration.

“Through iNaturalist, I hope to share my excitement with others and share my observations on the Kaibab National Forest with people across the globe,” Gonzales said. “As I walk through the woods, I’m constantly reflecting on the treasures we are provided with all that public lands offer to every one of us. All of the observations my family and I have made were on U.S. Forest Service lands and are available for everyone else to enjoy.”

To participate with the Kaibab National Forest in its citizen science project, visit Kaibab NF 2017 Citizen Science Project on iNaturalist.org. Follow the Kaibab National Forest on Facebook and Twitter @KaibabNF.

Kaibab National Forest maps trails as part of topographical initiative

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest has taken on a major trail mapping project as part of a larger Forest Service topographical initiative aimed at producing new and more accurate maps for employee and public use.

Throughout the summer, employees and interns have been re-mapping miles upon miles of trails across the 1.6-million-acre Kaibab National Forest by hiking each and every one of them. On a typical day, recreation intern Mary Bielamowicz and geographic information systems intern Michelle Barton grab their tablets loaded with the ArcGIS Collector app, a mapping and spatial data analysis application, and select a trail to hike. The tablets have a GPS chip, so even when they are offline, they can map trails that are far from any Wi-Fi signal.

Once they are on the trail, they map the beginning mile point, ending mile point, note maintenance needs and issues along the route, and take photos of signs or any other special features. When other employees map trails, they follow the same process. The Collector app syncs back to ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS Online is cloud-based, which means that everyone on the system can see what others have mapped, what specific information has been gathered, and what trails still require attention. This allows for an organized, consistent process that will result in updated, high-quality data that can eventually be shared with other employees and members of the public.

The Forest Service is putting focus to the topographical initiative because many of the agency’s maps are based on outdated U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps, so there are inconsistencies and errors in the data.

“When you’re out there, even when you’re an experienced hiker, you want to know where you’re hiking,” Bielamowicz said.

Alongside visitor safety, accurate trail mapping also contributes to firefighter and other Forest Service employee safety. For example, if a fire crew needs to leave an area quickly, they have to know which trail will be fastest, or which will lead them to their next location.

The creation of new topographic maps includes re-mapping trails and streams, taking more high-quality aerial photos, and making more exact digital elevation models. This larger, coordinated effort to upgrade topographic data and map products, which is being led by the Forest Service Southwestern Regional Office, will eventually provide for better visitor experiences, improved safety, and more precise management decisions on the Kaibab National Forest. Topographic maps remain indispensable tools for everyday use in government, science, industry, land management planning and recreation.

“What we will be able to say is that in 2017, we had new trail maps, new hydrologic data, and new resource photography,” said Mark Christiano, geographic information systems coordinator for the Kaibab National Forest. “Better data will lead to more informed decisions, and that’s why this initiative is so important.”Follow the Kaibab National Forest on Facebook and Twitter @KaibabNF.

Monsoons keep North Zone firefighters busy as lightning ignites multiple fires in Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park

FREDONIA — For Immediate Release. Within the past week, North Zone fire personnel consisting of firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service have responded jointly to multiple lightning-caused wildfires located on both the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and adjacent North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest.

Lightning-caused wildfires are a common occurrence during the monsoon season (typically late-June through late-July). Of the five fires sparked by monsoonal storms this week, two are being suppressed and three are being monitored.

Monitoring a wildfire is a fire management tactic used by fire managers when strategizing an incident response, and contributing factors that help steer this decision-making process are often incident specific. Location, available resources, predicted weather, topography, air quality and predicted fire behavior are all factors that contribute to fire management decisions.

“Each of these fires has received significant monsoonal moisture and are predicted to receive even more throughout the next week,” said North Zone Fire Management Officer Ed Hiatt. “This ebb and flow of monsoonal moisture allows us the necessary time to identify values at risk, assess potential planning area boundaries and gather other intelligence necessary to make sound tactical decisions so that we are ready to respond appropriately once fire activity dictates.”

Fires currently in monitor status are:

· The Haunted wildfire – burning in ponderosa pine fuel type located at the Outlet Peninsula on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The fire is approximately 3 acres in size.
· The Pine Hollow wildfire – burning in ponderosa pine fuel type and debris left from the Pipeline Fire of 2009. The fire is west of Big Springs Field Station in the vicinity of Little Mountain and is approximately 5 acres in size.
· The Crescent wildfire is burning north of the historic Kanabownits Lookout Tower in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer fuel types and is approximately 3 acres in size.

Additional fire activity updates will be provided as new information becomes available, and may be obtained through the following sources:

· Kaibab National Forest Website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
· Grand Canyon National Park: www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/firemanagement.htm
· Kaibab National Forest Fire Information phone line: (928) 635-8311
· Text Message – text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404
· Twitter: @KaibabNF
· Facebook: @KaibabNF

Tree specialists continue work to restore ponderosa pine on North Kaibab

FREDONIA – Employees on the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest have once again partnered with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to plant seedlings in the Warm Fire 2017 planting project at East Lake.

This year’s Warm Fire planting project was completed in the spring with the help of a $54,000 grant from the NFF and the combined efforts of both the USDA Forest Service and Oregon-based contractor GE Forestry. Together, this on-the-ground effort yielded a total of 76,000 ponderosa pine seedlings planted in the 350-acre East Lake project area. It also increased the overall grand total for the Warm Fire reforestation to more than 1.8 million trees planted and certified across 6,100 acres of this multi-phased reforestation effort since planting efforts began in 2008.

This year’s planting project was led by North Kaibab Ranger District Assistant Silviculturist Joseph Varnado and District Silviculturist Garry Domis. This is the sixth such project in the Warm Fire area. All six projects were made possible through more than $440,000 in grants provided to the Kaibab National Forest from the National Forest Foundation, American Forest Foundation, Salt River Project Trees for Change program, and the National Bank of Arizona’s Sustainable Initiatives program.

“The key here is survival. We are planting tomorrow’s future forest,” said Varnado. “So when we’re out here, we are looking for the best possible sites to plant. Sites with the best moisture, with the best shade, and the best protection from the elements so we can enhance the survivability of our investment and protect our future forest.”

An important component crucial to that survivability began in 2009 when cones for the reforestation effort were collected from the North Kaibab and shipped to Lucky Peak Nursery near Boise, Idaho. Seeds are extracted and stored in the forest’s seed bank until needed for a planting project.

By planting seeds harvested from cones collected on the North Kaibab and stored at the nursery, foresters are able to “ensure proper provenance for planting,” said Domis, by planting native trees back into an area when the need arises. “In the forestry world we refer to this collection, storage and planting of seedlings in an area in which they originated as the conservation of genetics,” said North Kaibab District Ranger Randall Walker. “The long-term benefits help ensure provenance and avoid contamination of the genetic pool specific to a particular geographic location and elevational band. This multi-phased conservation effort is important to helping the area recover because it results in the best phenotypic characteristics that stand the best chance of survival.”

According to Walker, some preferred phenotypic traits may include trees with dark-colored green crowns which indicates the best chance to synthesize nutrients; trees with straight form which indicates the best chance to capture sunlight; trees with branch angles that can best adapt to snow loads at a higher elevation versus a lower elevation; or trees without forks, as forked trees are more susceptible to damage by winds at higher elevations.

Regardless of location or vegetation type, foresters can theoretically collect any type of native seed and send to the nursery for storage and future planting projects. Ordering a particular species is as simple as submitting a “sow and grow” request to the nursery.

For this year’s planting project, Domis submitted a request to Lucky Peak Nursery in November 2015. The seeds were then withdrawn from the forest’s seed bank and then sown and grown on site, a process that takes approximately 12 months before the seedlings are ready for selection and shipment to the forest.

Kaibab National Forest seeks input on proposed wildlife viewing area

Northern leopard frogs with egg masses. (Kaibab National Forest Photo)

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest is seeking public input on a proposed project to construct a pond for the northern leopard frog as well as a larger wildlife viewing area on the grounds of the Williams Ranger District compound. The goals of the project are to increase the viable habitat for the frog and to provide the community with the opportunity to learn about conservation issues.

The project would include the pond that would serve as a habitat and source population for the northern leopard frogs, a pollinator garden to attract pollinator species, interpretive signs, and an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved trail, all of which are intended to enhance public education and recreation experiences.

The Kaibab National Forest is within the natural historic range of the northern leopard frog, which spans the northern and central portions of Arizona. Leading biologists have noted the species is undergoing significant declines in the southwestern United States. Factors like the presence of invasive species and infection by fungal diseases have contributed to the loss of northern leopard frog populations in Arizona, but no stressing factor is more prevalent than the loss of suitable wetland habitat.

The northern leopard frog, which was considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2011, was identified and listed as a Forest Service Sensitive Species by the Regional Forester in 2013. This means that it is a species for which population viability is a concern. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has also prioritized the northern leopard frog as a Tier 1A species, which categorizes it into the highest priority for conservation management and considers it to be a species of greatest conservation need.

The Kaibab National Forest has a history of working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve existing and attempt to establish new populations of northern leopard frogs on both the Williams and North Kaibab districts of the forest.

The Clover Pond Wildlife Habitat Project Proposed Action is available on the Kaibab National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=51795. Members of the public are invited to provide their comments through Aug. 21. To submit e-comments, please email comments-southwestern-kaibab-williams@fs.fed.us. For hard copy mailed or hand delivered comments, please deliver them to the Williams Ranger District office at 742 S. Clover Road, Williams, AZ 86046 during office hours Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information on the project, please contact Travis Largent, wildlife biologist, at (928) 635-5600.

Boundary Fire smoke enters Williams area

WILLIAMS – Smoke from the Boundary Fire entered Williams creating a slight haze over the area. The forest service issued an advisory for parts of Flagstaff, Bellemont, Parks and Williams.
Coconino County health issued a release advising that smoke from wildfires in Northern Arizona and in Southern Utah continues to affect several communities in Coconino County. County health officials are encouraging individuals to take precautions to protect themselves from health effects of wildfire smoke.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The primary health concern is the small particles. Not everyone who is exposed to smoke will have health problems. Many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to smoke. These factors include the level, extent, and duration of exposure, age, and individual susceptibility.

Anyone who can see, taste or smell smoke should curtail outdoor activity. People with heart disease, lung disease or asthma should avoid the outdoors entirely, as should children and the elderly.

Boundary Fire Suppression Repair Needs Assessed

WILLIAMS – On Wednesday crews worked to secure control lines and patrol for hotspots along the perimeter. An assessment of suppression repair needs has begun. Suppression repair will include the construction of water bars to divert the flow of water away from fire lines during rainstorms, the felling of hazard trees, the repair of roads and trails where they were used as part of the control line and the repair of fences where they were cut to allow access to crews and equipment during suppression operations.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect today due to low humidity, high temperatures and strong winds. Due to the increased fire danger, the Coconino National Forest will move into Stage II fire restrictions at 8 am today.

The winds are expected to pick up today moving smoke around the north side of the San Francisco Peaks where it will then travel east. Smoke is expected to be most noticeable to the south of Grey Mountain and north of Timberline/Doney Park.

Crews make significant progress in suppressing wildfire near Tusayan

Crews made significant progress last night in suppressing the 151-acre Rain Fire located about 5 miles southwest of the Town of Tusayan on the Kaibab National Forest.

Incident commander Quentin Johnson said the wildfire, which is burning in pinyon-juniper woodlands, is now 40 percent contained after retardant drops yesterday and the construction of hand and dozer line late into last night.

Resources assigned today include three 20-person hand crews, three engines, a dozer, a water tender and several individual fire personnel for a total of about 80 people. With winds predicted to be out of the west and gusts up to 30 mph in the forecast today, fire personnel will focus on enhancing established containment lines especially on the east flank to try to prevent the wildfire from spreading.

Smoke from the Rain Fire has diminished significantly since yesterday, but it may still be visible from Grand Canyon Airport, Grand Canyon National Park, Highway 64, and the Town of Tusayan. Grand Canyon National Park remains open.

No structures are threatened. The cause of the fire is under investigation.