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Deschutes National Forest Plans Up to 11,000 Acres of Spring Prescribed Burning: Where and Why


The Deschutes National Forest, located in central Oregon, has recently announced plans to conduct prescribed burns across up to 11,000 acres of forest land this spring. This effort is part of the forest's ongoing efforts to reduce wildfire risk, restore forest health, and improve wildlife habitat.

What is Prescribed Burning?

Prescribed burning, also known as controlled burning, is a carefully planned and executed fire that is intentionally set to achieve specific forest management goals. These burns are conducted under specific weather conditions and are closely monitored to ensure that they stay within the designated boundaries and do not pose a threat to surrounding communities.

Why is Prescribed Burning Necessary?

Prescribed burning is an essential tool for forest management for several reasons:

  1. Reducing Fuel Loads: Over time, dead and dry vegetation accumulates on the forest floor, creating a significant fuel source for potential wildfires. By conducting prescribed burns, forest managers can reduce these fuel loads, making it less likely for wildfires to spread rapidly and uncontrollably.

  2. Forest Health: Many ecosystems in the Deschutes National Forest have evolved with fire as a natural part of their life cycle. Certain plant species actually depend on periodic fires to reproduce and thrive. Prescribed burning helps mimic this natural process and promotes overall forest health.

  3. Wildlife Habitat Restoration: Many wildlife species depend on fire-maintained habitats. Prescribed burning helps create diverse and dynamic landscapes that benefit a wide range of plants and animals.

  4. Community Safety: By proactively managing the forest through prescribed burning, the Deschutes National Forest aims to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires that could threaten nearby communities and infrastructure.

Where are the Prescribed Burns Planned?

The prescribed burns are planned in various locations across the Deschutes National Forest. Some of the areas identified for potential burning include:

  1. Newberry National Volcanic Monument: This iconic destination within the Deschutes National Forest is known for its unique geologic features and diverse landscapes. Prescribed burns within the monument aim to reduce vegetation buildup and mitigate fire risk.

  2. Crescent Ranger District: This district covers a large area that includes a mix of forest types and ecosystems. Prescribed burns here will contribute to overall forest health and reduce wildfire potential.

  3. Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District: This district encompasses a wide range of habitats, from high desert to ponderosa pine forests. Prescribed burns in this area will help create a mosaic of vegetation types that benefit wildlife and promote ecological diversity.

  4. Sisters Ranger District: Known for its stunning mountain landscapes and dense forest cover, this district will see prescribed burns aimed at promoting forest health and reducing wildfire risk in key areas.

  5. La Pine and Prineville BLM Districts: While not within the Deschutes National Forest boundaries, these nearby districts are also planning prescribed burns to complement the forest's efforts and create a more cohesive fire management strategy across the region.

How are Prescribed Burns Planned and Executed?

Prescribed burns are highly orchestrated events that require careful planning and coordination. Here's a glimpse into the process:

  1. Planning and Analysis: Forest managers analyze various factors, including fuel loads, weather conditions, ecological needs, and public safety concerns to determine the best locations and timing for prescribed burns.

  2. Public Outreach and Communication: Prior to conducting prescribed burns, the forest service engages in extensive public outreach to inform nearby communities about the planned burns and address any concerns or questions.

  3. Weather Monitoring: Prescribed burns are conducted when weather conditions are favorable for a controlled and safe fire. This includes factors such as humidity, wind speed and direction, and temperature.

  4. Firebreak Preparation: Firebreaks, which are cleared areas designed to contain the prescribed burn, are constructed around the planned burn area.

  5. Fire Ignition and Monitoring: Trained personnel ignite the prescribed burn and continuously monitor its progress. If at any point the fire begins to exceed the predetermined boundaries, fire crews are ready to take immediate action to control it.

  6. Post-Burn Assessment: After the prescribed burn is complete, the forest service conducts an assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of the burn and its impact on the ecosystem.

The Importance of Public Safety and Communication

Prescribed burns, while crucial for forest management, can raise concerns among nearby residents. The Forest Service understands the importance of effectively communicating with the public to address any apprehensions and ensure the safety of all communities. By providing clear information about the purpose, timing, and safety measures of prescribed burns, the Deschutes National Forest aims to build trust and collaboration with local residents.

The Role of Climate and Environmental Conditions

Climate and environmental conditions play a crucial role in the success and safety of prescribed burns. In recent years, the Pacific Northwest has experienced changing weather patterns, including longer and more intense wildfire seasons. These shifts pose challenges for conducting prescribed burns within narrow windows of favorable weather conditions.

The Deschutes National Forest is adapting to these changes by incorporating advanced weather forecasting and monitoring tools to identify optimal windows for prescribed burns. This proactive approach allows forest managers to capitalize on the most favorable conditions while mitigating the potential risks associated with more extreme weather events.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Managing a vast and diverse forest like the Deschutes National Forest requires collaboration with various partners and stakeholders. The Forest Service works closely with local fire departments, volunteer organizations, tribal communities, and other federal and state agencies to coordinate prescribed burns and ensure a unified approach to forest management and fire prevention.

Partnering with tribal communities is particularly important, as their traditional ecological knowledge can provide valuable insights into the historical use of fire as a forest management tool. By integrating traditional practices with modern forest management strategies, the Deschutes National Forest aims to create a more holistic and effective approach to prescribed burning.

Monitoring and Adaptive Management

Prescribed burns are not just one-time events; they are part of an ongoing cycle of forest management. After a prescribed burn, the forest service closely monitors the area to assess the ecological response and adjust future plans accordingly. This adaptive management approach ensures that prescribed burns are tailored to the specific needs of individual forest areas and ecosystems.

Public Involvement and Volunteer Opportunities

The Deschutes National Forest actively encourages public involvement in its forest management efforts, including prescribed burns. Community members can participate in educational programs, volunteer opportunities, and even hands-on experiences in assisting with prescribed burn activities under the guidance of trained professionals.

By engaging the public in these activities, the forest service aims to foster a sense of ownership and stewardship among local residents, ultimately building a stronger and more resilient community that actively contributes to the conservation and management of the forest.


Prescribed burning is a critical tool for managing forest ecosystems and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the Deschutes National Forest. By carefully planning and executing prescribed burns in collaboration with local communities and partners, the forest service aims to promote forest health, restore wildlife habitat, and protect nearby communities.

As the Deschutes National Forest continues its prescribed burn efforts, it remains dedicated to transparent communication, public safety, and adaptive management. Through these ongoing initiatives, the forest service strives to create a more resilient and dynamic forest landscape that benefits both nature and society.

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