New fire module team hits the ground burning!

New staff at the Guild are jumping in feet first! Three new Guild staff based out the Guild’s Loveland, Colorado office didn’t wait a week before using their expertise in prescribed fire. Kate Williams, plans specialist; Tyler Gilbert, logistics specialist; and Daniel Rael, prescribed fire apprentice joined the Guild’s Fire Management Director in the Luera Mountains of New Mexico on a restoration project. This team is the core of the Guild’s fire team called the Gravitas Peak Wildland Fire Module. Other fire experts like Thayer McKeith join the Module on an-as-needed-basis and big projects like the Luera Mountains burn wouldn’t be possible without them. Future issues of Across the Landscape will give a full introduction to our new staff, but suffice it to say they are a perfect fit for the high-performing team at the Guild. They were able to return a crucial ecological process, fire, to mixed conifer, ponderosa pine, and piñon-juniper forests. The Guild team worked shoulder to shoulder with staff from the New Mexico State Land Office, the Department of Game and Fish, the Prescribed Fire Council, and the South Central Mountains RC&D. Through this collaborative effort, the team was able to achieve positive ecological impacts across 5,200 acres. As one partner said, “we’ve never done so much good, for so little money.”

Some of the ecological goals included re-establishing historical densities of ponderosa pine and piñon-juniper, restoring fire’s historical function, improving habitat for both livestock and wildlife, improving species diversity, and improving watershed function. Functionally, this meant reducing 90 to 100% of slash areas, thinning with fire 40% of ponderosa pine 8 inches DBH and smaller, and consuming up to 90% of the pine litter. All of this was done with minimal ground disturbance in a very remote area.

The team only had a brief rest before heading out again to get more good fire on the ground in northeastern New Mexico. This hands-on, operational training at Fort Union Ranch will provide landowners with exposure to the process of responsibly implementing a prescribed burn from start to finish on private property.

Written by Zander Evans
Photos by Kate Williams and Dave Lasky