Understanding Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL): how trail/forestry work and wildfire risk are linked
August 6, 2021 - Bend Bulletin column written by Emmy Andrews.
Trail work follows the seasons. In winter, trails are blanketed under snow and little or no trail work occurs.
As spring arrives and the trails emerge from the melting snow, a small army of mostly volunteer trail workers gets busy.
They use chainsaws and hand saws to remove trees that have fallen across the trail. They use loppers and power brushers to cut back shrubs that are growing into the trail. They use shovels and other hand tools to complete small projects to improve trail drainage, prevent erosion, correct trail widening and more. They use machinery such as skid steers for larger maintenance projects such as reshaping jumps on mountain bike trails and building new trails.
They work furiously as summer approaches, and their work becomes sweatier and dustier with each passing week. As temperatures rise and the soil dries out — which seems to happen faster and sooner each year — certain types of trail work projects become unfeasible.
Imagine building a sandcastle on the beach. As the sand dries, it won’t stick together and becomes impossible to shape. Similarly, as Central Oregon soil dries out, it becomes nearly impossible to do trail work such as reshaping dirt jumps.
As soil dries, another more familiar shift also occurs: The risk of wildfire increases.
Trail work and wildfire risk are linked by a relatively unknown designation: the Industrial Fire Precaution Level . IFPLs start at Level I and go up to Level IV. At Levels II and III, the use of powered equipment and certain activities are limited. At Level IV, all use of power equipment and all industrial activities are suspended. IFPLs apply to lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management .
As described on the Deschutes National Forest website, IFPLs “pertain to permitted activities such as timber sales, service contracts and firewood cutting.” As the name implies, the IFPL system restricts certain activities associated with logging and other industrial activities as fire danger increases. IFPLs stipulate things an operator can’t do, such as not use machinery at certain times of day in dry conditions. IFPLs also prescribe things an operator must do, such as use spark arresters, carry a fire extinguisher and perform a fire watch after operations conclude.
This year, local Forest Service and BLM lands went from Level I to II in early July and raced onward through the levels, entering IFPL IV a mere two weeks later, on July 17. The IFPL is likely to remain at Level IV, the most restrictive level, until well into fall, when moisture returns.
Trail work activities are subject to IFPL requirements and restrictions. At IFPL IV, if a tree falls across the trail, trail workers can’t use a chainsaw to cut it. They must leave it there or cut it with a hand saw. If a new trail is being built, they must use hand tools and can no longer use machinery to speed the process along. Trail workers happily comply — no one wants a wildfire — and await the onset of fall, when moisture will return and any affected trail work projects can continue.
IFPLs also affect trail and road closures. At IFPL IV, because forest thinning operations are suspended, trails and forest roads in the thinning area that were previously closed Monday to Friday are now open.
As citizens and users of public lands, it is important to understand how to recreate responsibly as fire danger increases. While IFPLs affect industrial operations, high fire danger also necessitates recreational restrictions such as not having campfires and not driving or parking on dry vegetation. Thanks for recreating responsibly!
Article published here.
The Euro Stewardship/West Bend forest thinning project continues in the Phil's area and the USFS/Deschutes Nat'l Forest office has confirmed several forest service road (FSR) openings.
OPEN WEEKENDS FOR BIKERS, MOTORIZED & NON-MOTORIZED USE
FSR 4610 - Ben's, Kent's cross; popular dry camping access road off Skyliner's
FSR 4610-300 - aka The 300 road
Lower Whoops Trail
Pine Drops Trail
EXT Trail - runs parallel to 300 road
Storm King Trail – section between FSR 4615 and Upper Phil’s near the old Whoops bench
Phil’s Trail - aka Helipad or Upper Phil's (trail from old Whoops bench area to 300 road)
CLOSED 24/7 TO MOTORIZED TRAFFIC
FSR 4601-310 (aka Whoops Climb Road), 320 and 322 roads are not completed and remain closed to all motorized use, but open weekends for bikers and non-motorized use.
PLEASE NOTE: NO PARKING where the 300 road meets Skyliners. Thanks!
See updated map (dated 6/10/2021) and USFS press release below for more information.
Go to Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project for detailed information on the West Bend Project.
The May 6, 2021 Press Release is posted below and can also be found here.
April, 2021 - Backyard Bend's Kristian Jamieson interviews Emmy Andrews, our first Executive Director, who provides a quick update on the larger issues for Central Oregon mountain bike trails. Learn about new trail systems in Madras and the Ochocos, COTA's relationship with land managers, and the future of eBikes and public downhill developments.
Bend, Ore— This Thursday, fuel specialists with the Deschutes National Forest will conduct prescribed fire operations adjacent to Bend and within the Phil’s Trail area. The prescribed burn will be visible to residents of Bend and travelers along Century Drive.
The project area is located south of Phil’s Trailhead, west of Bend, and includes portions of KGB, COD, and Marvin’s Garden trails, which will be closed during fire operations. Forest Service Road 4604 also will be closed along with several smaller Forest Service Roads. Closed roads and trails will be signed.
Specialists will underburn approximately 350 acres. Ignitions are expected to take 1-2 days and will occur between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.
Smoke and residual burning will be visible in the area for up to a week post ignition. Subdivisions and neighborhoods on the west side of Bend can expect some nighttime and early morning smoke impacts after the burn. Trails will reopen once deemed safe.
The objective of this prescribed burn is to reintroduce fire into a fire evolved ecosystem and to reduce the potential impacts of a wildfire coming into Bend and Century Drive.
The public is encouraged to close their windows at night and if smoke is on the roadway, turn on headlights and slow down while traveling through smoky areas. The public’s health is important to the Forest Service. While significant preventive measures are taken, many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to smoke, including severity and duration of smoke exposure and a person’s health. If individuals feel impacted by smoke, they should avoid outdoor physical exertion and remain indoors. If people experience serious health impacts from the smoke, they should contact their doctor. For more information about smoke and health, visit the Oregon Health Authority recommendations through this link: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx#health
Notice originally published here.
The new Lemon Gulch Trail network project in Crook County is making progress! Lemon Gulch was included in a comprehensive, multi-user trail proposal developed by Ochoco Trails Collaborative Group that was submitted to Ochoco National Forest Service. Their proposal was approved by ONFS and subsequently selected as a priority area for creating new mountain bike trails. Trail route planning was completed during fall, 2020 and the ONFS environmental analysis is now underway.
The Lemon Gulch proposal wish list includes 30 trails (51.4 miles!) and 22,121 feet total descent; 5 green, 10 blue, and 15 black diamond rated trails; 1 uphill-only trail, 2 bi-directional trails, and 27 downhill-only trails - a long yearned for modern shuttle-accessible DH trail network and just 15 miles east of Prineville. If you think Central Oregon would benefit from this type of trail network send in your comment of support.
Here is the scoping info link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58831 and the link to comment online:
The Lemon Gulch project is the first big project in COTA’s collaboration with the Ochoco Trails group.
This paved path would provide a safe way to travel between the southern boundary of Bend to the Lava Lands Visitors Center, running parallel (but separate) to Highway 97. Public comments are welcome via email until May 8 to email@example.com Use subject line, Paved Path.
The Deschutes National Forest Press Release in PDF format with active links can be found below.
The scoping notice can be found here.
Ecological thinning of our overly dense forests is conducted to reduce vegetation and growth on the forest floor, which leaves less fuel for wildfires. This work is especially critical in the forest adjacent to Bend, which happens to be some of our favorite riding areas.
The following trails within the Euro Stewardship contract area are temporarily closed for the safety of trail users as well as the safety and efficiency of timber harvesting and forest restoration operations:
Map and more info can be found here.
ALSO: Prescribed Fire Season is Here
With warmer temperatures approaching, fire managers on the Deschutes National Forest will also be gearing up for multiple prescribed burns planned for our area. The use of prescribed fire in Central Oregon’s fire-adapted ecosystems helps clear out small trees and brush that acts as wildfire fuel, and it also enhances wildlife habitat and plant life.
Throughout the next two-to-three months, you may see some smoke and other temporary trail closures, depending upon the prescribed burning locations. Make sure you're signed up for DCFP's newsletter to receive updates here.
Membership matters! But why?
Interested in serving on the COTA Board? Elections are coming up in May. Yes, being a board member requires a time commitment, at least 15 hours a month, but there’s just no better way to get involved and influence the current and future mountain biking efforts here in Central Oregon (and have fun while doing it). Board positions are 3 year terms.
Check out the Board Job Description here to see what being on the board entails. This election cycle has 3 at-large Board positions, plus the Madras Chapter/Board member and SoDeCo Chapter/Board member spots. Interested? Complete the Nomination Form here by April 30.
The election process timeline:
Any questions, please email the 2021 COTA Elections Coordinators, Darlene Henderson or Kelly Burke.