Burn scar changes the face and use of Huntington Canyon
The Emery County Public Lands Council took a field trip to the Seeley Fire burn scar as well as other areas of the Manti-LaSal forest on Aug. 16. The purpose of the trip was to educate the lands council members and acquaint them with the projects ongoing on the in the Manti-Lasal National Forest.
`The first stop on the tour was Nuck Woodward canyon where road work is going on to repair damage caused by flooding that has happened since the Seely Fire in late June/early July. The road into Stuart Guard Station is also being repaired.
The next stop was Engineer Canyon where flood water flows have deposited large boulders across an area that was being looked at for possible camp spots and parking. The Forest Service has determined now this might not be a good location for camping and will look at alternatives in the area.
Other stops included a look at the fire line, improvements to camping in the Lake Canyon area and areas where timber is being harvested.
Fuels reduction projects at Joe's Valley were also toured.
One of the pieces of rehabilitation work on the forest has included turning the downed trees sideways to act as natural breaks for debris and water.
In discussing the Seeley fire the Forest Service employees said the conditions were prime for a fire of this type. With all the dead beetle killed trees and the dry conditions fire was inevitable at some point.
`The forest officials said old controlled burn areas, seemed to fare better in the fire than areas that have never burned. In 2009 there was a controlled burn in Tie Fork that burned 2,000-3,000 acres and when the Seeley Fire arrived there this summer it stopped at the old burn's border. This also happened in Engineer Canyon. They stated that this is proof that controlled burns really do work to remove the built up fuels.
Public Lands Director Ray Petersen encouraged the forest service officials to look at new areas for camping if they have to close any of the previous camping areas off due to damages from flooding.
The campground below the Stuart Guard station has flooded several times and may be closed for a while. In the South Hughes Campground the tables and the fire ring have been removed and put into storage.
Plans were in the works for more controlled burns in Huntington Canyon before the Seeley fire hit. Of course they are now not necessary.
Darren Olsen, a forest ranger for the Ferron office said even though things look black and burned in areas, there is regeneration. You can see new grass growing in the burn areas. There are some aspen shoots up about a foot high already in some areas. Fire is necessary for regeneration and encouraging new growth. Fire can be good and beneficial, but Olsen said it's tough to see the burned areas and many things have changed in the canyon.
With those facts in evidence users must adapt and get used to the way things are now. In some areas the view of the canyo9n has changed completely. They must be especially aware and alert when using the canyon to avoid being injured by the flooding that can take place.
Even if it isn't raining where a person is at any one time, debris flows can travel for miles. Olsen said safety for the public is the now biggest factor in the canyon. Debris flows can cover the main highway in a matter of minutes which has been shown in flooding events this summer.
As winter approaches users need to be very careful when traveling through the burn area which is an area approximately 10 miles from Crandall Canyon to below Electric Lake.
The Utah Department of Transportation continues to work in the Pole Canyon area where SR-31 has been hit the hardest with road damage. SR-31was closed once again after rainstorms caused more damage this past weekend. It is expected to be reopened sometime in the next week.