The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests’ Ouray Ranger District, the Bureau of Land Management Uncompahgre Field Office, and partners are collaborating on the Baldy Mountain Landscape Resiliency and Habitat Improvement project in Ouray County.
The goal of the Baldy Mountain Project is to restore the resiliency of the landscape for multiple species and the protection of wildland-urban interface. The exclusion of fire from the Baldy Project area has caused the unnatural buildup of fuels including dense shrubs and trees, reducing habitat effectiveness for multiple species and increasing the chance of high-severity fire.
“This project allows us to conduct much-needed treatment in dead, dying, and overgrown stands at a more landscape scale, including areas within the wildland urban interface,” said Ouray District Ranger, Dana Gardunio. “This will enhance forest health and wildlife habitat as well as maintain fuel breaks important for public and firefighter safety.”
The Bureau of Land Management Field Manager for the Uncompahgre Field Office, Suzanne Copping shared that, "the Baldy Mountain project has fostered collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries, enabling us to leverage staff expertise and financial resources with other agencies and private landowners to reduce hazardous fuel loads, support landscape resilience and improve public safety."
Initial project activities will include mechanical and hand-crew treatments of brush and trees, which will be followed by prescribed burning. Some acres will see more than one treatment. This means there is an anticipated 4,368-acre footprint within the 6,104-acre project area. Implementation will span across agency and private lands and is anticipated to take up to 5 years to complete.
Implementation is scheduled to begin summer of 2023 on the north end of the project area with mechanical and hand crew treatments. Treatments will improve big game habitat and prepare the area for future prescribed burning. The focus will shift to the improvement of bighorn sheep habitat and fuel reductions in the wildland-urban interface as treatments shift to the south end. The earliest any prescribed burning would occur in 2024.
The project has been closely coordinated with the GMUG National Forests, the BLM, Mullin’s Ranch, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Ouray County, Colorado State Forest Service, West Region Fire Council, and private landowners.
The project is being supported by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Habitat Partnership Program. Ouray County Commissioners have given their support for the project and its alignment with the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
The National Forest Foundation is a key coordination partner for the project. We will work closely with the partners to fundraise and build capacity for implementation and expand collaboration and communication with partners, landowners, and community members that will support mutual goals of shared stewardship.
These partnerships allow the agencies and the public to consider the whole landscape from multiple perspectives and not limit activities to jurisdictional boundaries.
Project partners hosted the Baldy Mountain Project Public Open House on July 10, 2023 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm MST.
A presentation from project partners kicked off at 5:00 pm and ran to 5:30 pm. After, project partners and specialists were available to discuss the project and answer questions. The event was hosted at the 4H Community Center in Ridgway, CO.
If you were unable to attend, the presentation from the beginning of the event is available for review HERE.
If you are interested in learning more about this project contact Maddie Rehn, Rocky Mountain Regional Manager with the National Forest Foundation, or Luke Holguin, Zoned Wildlife Biologist with the Norwood and Ouray Ranger Districts of the GMUG National Forest.