fires

With winds and low precipitation causing fire danger to escalate in rangelands around the state, the Bureau of Land Management is keeping a close eye on sage grouse habitat. Senior Resource Advisor Pam Murdock says they’re working hard to control the fires.

"I know that there are a few going on currently," she says. "We have one, I was just informed of yesterday, that did get ignited over the weekend that was in sage grouse core area up in the Bighorn Basin."

She says it isn't easy juggling conflicting priorities. 

David Koch

Bark beetles have ravaged western forests in recent years, leaving behind huge swaths of dead trees.

In a series of ten short films premiering in Wyoming this week, the Forest Service and the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute have teamed up to spotlight some of the impacts of the outbreak, and the ways managers are responding to it. The Institute’s Emilene Ostlind says the series covers everything from bark beetles’ effect on Cheyenne’s water supply to how beetle kill is turned into lumber to her personal favorite, which focuses on researchers at the university.

There are three fires burning across Wyoming today. Near Sinks Canyon in Freemont County, in The Hard Luck area of the Washakie Wilderness and in the western Battle Creek area of area of Medicine Bow national forest. The fire near Hard Luck was discovered by reconnaissance planes on Saturday and the most recent fire, burning near Battle Creek picked up Monday.  

Kabir Bakie / Creative Commons

A wet spring has shortened Wyoming’s fire season, according to Wyoming’s State Forester.


Bill Crapser says decreased fire danger has allowed the Cowboy State to lend 50 people and 15 engines to fight wildfires in Colorado.


Crapser expects much of the state’s plant life to dry out in July and August, which makes wildfires more likely.


“We’re not gonna get through unscathed, but I don’t think we’ll see fires of the number or the size that we saw last year.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor says extreme drought conditions now cover much of southern and eastern Wyoming after a dry August.
 
 The program's map shows all of Sweetwater, Laramie, Goshen, Platte and Niobrara counties are in an extreme drought, the fourth-worst out of five categories.
 
 Conditions in most of Converse and Weston counties and in parts of six other counties are also classified as extreme drought.
 
Most of the rest of the state is in a severe drought, the third-worst category.
 

Wyoming’s state parks are getting fewer visitors than usual, and park officials say it’s probably because of the ban on campfires.

State Parks Chief of Operations Bill Westerfield says the decline in visitors will mean less money will be available for future improvements at parks and historic sites.

“The user fees – camping and day use fees – go into an enterprise account, and we use that money to build new facilities and to conduct major maintenance on the facilities we have,” Westerfield said.

Officials are warning that despite current wet weather, the risk of statewide fire danger will be high in the coming months.

Bill Crapser is Wyoming’s State Forester. He says, so far, this spring has seen a large amount of fires due to drier weather… and despite recent spates of rain and snow and a temporary reduction in fires, Crapser says he expects more in the near future.

Wyoming has experienced record high temperatures this month – in some cases more than 20 degrees above average. The National Weather Service says that’s because winter storms coming in from the west have been following slightly different tracks than usual.

“The lows that have developed have either gone way to our south or have gone to our north,” said Chuck Baker, a lead forecaster in Riverton.