Prescribed Fire Planned at Hunter Ranch Area

Old ranches and hayfields were scattered
across Antelope Flats during bygone days
May 8, 2009
Teton interagency fire personnel and Grand Teton National Park natural resource managers are planning a 60-acre prescribed fire as part of a 4,000-acre native rangeland restoration project in the Aspen Ridge/Hunter Ranch area of Grand Teton National Park This project involves a multistage effort to convert pasture land back to native vegetation as part of the 2007 Bison and Elk Management Plan for the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park. The prescribed fire may be initiated as early as Monday, May 11.

The Aspen Ridge/Hunter Ranch area was an irrigated hayfield prior to the 1970s. Despite a decades-long recovery time, this extensive hayfield area is still dominated by non-native grasses and a host of noxious weeds.

“Non-native, perennial grasses are a considerable threat to native plant succession and restoration,” said Grand Teton National Park Ecologist Kelly McCloskey. “Without human intervention and management, the pasture grasses—particularly smooth brome—will likely remain, preventing the regrowth of native plants. Prescribed fire is an effective tool in creating and preparing a natural seed-bed.” Post burn, resource managers will treat the site with herbicides to remove remaining non-native species.

“The prescribed fire and herbicide treatment will be monitored for several years to determine the success of this project,” said Chip Collins, assistant fire management officer for Grand Teton National Park. “Depending on the outcome, further actions may be needed to sufficiently restore native vegetation across the historic hayfields in the Mormon Row area.”

Fire managers will consider several factors before beginning the Aspen Ridge/Hunter Ranch prescribed fire; these include weather forecasts, the condition of vegetation (dried or greening), and the presence of nesting birds in the area.

Prescribed-fire ignitions will proceed only when favorable weather and fire behavior conditions are met. Smoke will be evident during the day of the burn and may persist for several days after, especially in mountain valleys during early morning and evening hours. Local residents and visitors should exercise caution in the vicinity of the prescribed-fires. Minimal traffic restrictions may occur to allow for public and firefighter safety, and fire equipment access.