Las Cruces – From April 21 to April 26, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff from the New Mexico Fire District will be conducting two prescribed burns on the east side of the San Andres mountain range on San Andres National Wildlife Refuge and the White Sands Missile Range.
Approximately 14,000 acres in the lower foothills on the east side of the refuge are slated to be burned with approximately 20,000 acres of higher elevation targeted on White Sands.
Prescribed fire is a cost effective way of reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfire and enhancing wildlife habitat while re-introducing fire into a fire adapted ecosystem. Using prescribed fire as a management tool for habitat improvement and hazardous fuels reduction is an approved and on-going proactive management strategy employed throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The San Andres and White Sands Missile Range prescribed fires will be conducted under approved burn plans and will be adequately staffed with firefighting resources from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New Mexico Fire District, Balcones Canyonlands Fire District, White Sands Missile Range and Bureau of Land Management.
During the prescribed fire, large amounts of smoke may be visible to the cities of Las Cruces, Alamogordo and other surrounding communities. Because of the remote nature of the refuge and conditions of high ventilation that are typical to the area during the summer months, it is highly unlikely that any community or roadway will be impacted by smoke. In the event that the fire escapes the boundary of the burn area, it is also very unlikely that any community would be threatened by fire. However, adequate contingency resources will be available during the burn period as a precautionary measure.
Prescribed burning reduces the total amount of vegetation and stimulates growth of native species that are adapted to naturally occurring fires. Refuge biologists and fire personnel worked together to develop a plan that will benefit wildlife and promote their habitat needs. Prescribed burning treatments, while expensive, may cost as little as one tenth that of a large scale, wildfire suppression effort. All burn plans use national interagency standards developed by qualified and experienced fire management professionals. The plans are extensively reviewed and must be approved by the Refuge Manager prior to ignition.