The Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection (DOF) and Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) are planning to burn the Gerstle and Panoramic fields of the Delta Junction Bison Range between May 13 and June 10, depending on weather and fuel conditions. The prescribed burns will take place between mile 1408 and 1393 of the Alaska Highway. Using prescribed fire in this area helps provide enhanced habitat for bison, moose, and grouse. The prescribed burns also provide valuable, hands-on training for the division’s wildland firefighters as they prepare for the upcoming wildland fire season.
Firefighters from State Forestry & Fire Protection along with Red Carded staff from ADF&G will use drip torches to ignite the fields. Burning will be based on weather conditions and availability of DOF staff to monitor the fire. There may be smoke on the Alaska Highway; signs will be posted to caution traffic.
The area that is being burned consists of grassland habitat intermixed with fields that have grown in with aspen and willow. Burning the fields will increase the quality and quantity of plant growth. With improved grass production in the fields, bison may be more attracted to the area during fall and winter, yielding a benefit to both hunters and farmers. Burning the tall shrubs and small trees will encourage regeneration of hardwoods, preferred forage species of moose. The prescribed fire is expected to produce an uneven burn across both the fields and the shrub areas resulting in a patchy, vegetative mixture to include grass, herbs, shrubs, and high-density aspen stands. Bison and moose will benefit from improved forage availability, while grouse will benefit from the regeneration of aspen which creates variable aged stands over time.
“After years of not using fire, our two agencies brought prescribed fire back to the Bison Range in 2017. This collaborative partnership shows how the State can expand our efficiency and capacity by combining staff and objectives,” said Department of Fish & Game’s Statewide Lands and Refuges Program Coordinator Sue Rodman. “ADF&G appreciates the support and expertise of the Division of Forestry & Fire Protection to pull off this project every spring.”
Created by the Alaska Legislature in 1979 to perpetuate free-ranging bison, the Delta Junction Bison Range encompasses nearly 90,000 acres north of the Granite Mountains between Granite Creek and the Little Gerstle River, about 20 miles east of Delta Junction along the Alaska Highway.
ADF&G biologists are measuring the different effects of prescribed fires on the bison range. One of those effects is the maintenance of the fields. Without the use of fire, mowing and tilling the fields is the only way to keep woody vegetation in check. These methods are both costly and time consuming. After measuring vegetative regrowth over the last few years, the Delta Bison Range Manager, Clint Cooper, concludes that prescribed fire is a useful tool to maintain the fields in the bison range from the constant encroachment of woody vegetation.
An in-depth story about prescribed fire on the Delta Bison Range can be found at http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=867
Consistent with the Delta Bison Interim Management plan, this project serves to balance conservation of bison and hunting interest with local agricultural land use. It is funded in part by the Delta Junction Bison Range management budget with primary funding from the Federal Pittman-Robertson Act, matched by state hunting license and permit fees.
If you have questions please contact the project coordinator, Sue Rodman, at (907) 267-2274 firstname.lastname@example.org
Categories: Alaska DNR - Division of Forestry (DOF), Prescribed Fire