Wildland firefighters will be at work igniting the slopes of Grouse Mountain this week for an experimental burn intended to regenerate imperiled whitebark pine trees by opening up the canopy.
The high elevation pine trees, classified as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, have especially struggled in the project area, having lost “virtually all of their overstory” and with only individual trees surviving, according to a planning document that authorized the prescribed fire project.
“This burn will not only attempt to promote the propagation of the whitebark pine species, it will also allow researchers to continue to find new treatments to aid forest managers throughout the region in preserving other five-needle species,” Bridger-Teton National Forest officials said in a press release.
Grouse Mountain is in the South Fork of the Spread Creek drainage to the south of Togwotee Pass. It’s tucked well into the backcountry, so smoke from the 365-acre burn is not expected to impact northern Jackson Hole communities like Moran, though it may be visible. Ignitions will start as early as today.
The Bridger-Teton authorized the prescribed burn, which is in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Montana, nearly a dozen years ago.
Originally the project was going to take place in a much larger area, but the burn was scaled back after discovering the area provides habitat for lynx. The first fire treatment for this project occurred in the fall of 2018.