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  • Acting Forest Service district ranger gives update on burned areas on Mt. Nebo

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

An acting forest ranger has been appointed until a permanent replacement for a retired ranger can be made but reseeding of the burn area on Mt. Nebo has already taken place.

Paul Gauchay, Acting District Ranger, and Brook Chadwick, Deputy Forest Fire Management Officer for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, met with commissioners on Monday.

The two showed the latest maps from the Bald Mountain Fire, the Pole Creek Fire and the Coal Hollow Fire.

“We have reseeded about 32,000 acres in the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain fires where there was lower elevation or steep slopes that may not recover well on their own,” Chadwick said.

Native and beneficial plants for wildlife and livestock were seeded. Aerial reseeding began on the burned area, near the junction of U.S. 89 and U.S. 6, last fall.

“This was a fast-moving fire so it did not ruin the soil because it did not get so hot,” said Chadwick. “We hope we have a fairly slow snow melt. We are about two weeks behind on the snow melt.”

Highway 89 is sage brush and, after conferring with cattle owners who use the land for grazing, the types of native seeds to be replanted were determined. DWR had worked with cattle owners to find alternative grazing land for them.

Gauchay has spent 32 years with the Forest Service and said he was on a new 120-day detail as the acting ranger for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Spanish Fork Ranger District as the occupational health and safety officer. District 4 is based in Salt Lake City.

Gauchay said he was filling in for George Garcia, who recently retired from the Forest Service. His usual job is as the United States Department of Agriculture U.S. Forest Service in the Salt Lake City office .

“I have been around the Forest Service for a number of years,” said Byron Woodland, county commission chairman. “”There is a real mistrust of the Forest Service.”

He said that the commission had been able to trust Garcia. He had gone a long way to rebuild that trust.

“We are disappointed to see him gone,” said Woodland.

Forest Service rangers in the past had not built trust and the ability to be heard, listened to and consulted had not existed before Garcia came to the area.

“We need another good fit for our area,” said Woodland.

Woodland said that Garcia had told them that he had money in place and a project designed for two projects in Salt Creek Canyon.

“We don’t want to see those go away,” he said.

One of those was dredging of the fishing pond in Salt Creek Canyon just beyond the turnoff to the forest from State Road 132.

The other was a water storage improvement project in Bear Canyon.

Gauchay knew about the dredging project and would find out about the water improvement project.

“Government is best when it is open,” said Gauchay.

Gauchay said that in the time he was the acting ranger, he would communicate with commissioners. He thought that communication was imperative.

A permanent replacement will be selected by late June or early July, he said.

“I was raised on a sheep ranch in Idaho and enjoyed everything associated with being a child in that environment,” he said,

“I was raised on a ranch and know that ranchers are important customers,” he said.

He started in the Forest Service in Idaho but has been in Utah for many years and works in Salt Lake.

“For years I was an administrative officer, but ten years ago I became the occupational health and safety officer. My pride and joy is fire suppression. It’s been a rewarding career, and I love working with good people who are dedicated to national resources.”

This is the second time that he has been an acting district ranger, he said.

“Every year,” said Richard Hansen, commissioner, “the Ponderosa Campground is shut down for the winter. Would you consider leaving it open and have a self-pay program?”

He said the Forest Service could lock up the toilets and, though he knew that paying on the honor system meant that some would skip out, he thought that maybe some paying was better than nothing.

The area was in a lower altitude, agreed Gauchay. He said he would look at the proposition and see what could be done.

Brett Ostler, state fire management officer with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, met with Chadwick and suggested that he should attend the county commission meeting.

Ostler was the former county fire marshal.

“A new fire chief has been hired for this area,” said Chadwick. “We will be fully staffed.”

Fire projections are that the area should be fairly good as far as fires were concerned until June. If there were problems, he said, the best person to contact was Gauchay.

“On this side,” said Gauchay, “we have had a lot of fire mitigation. “There are still some piles we need to burn.”

“There are some piles around the Boy Scout Camp,” said Clinton Painter, commissioner. “I have fond memories of that camp.”

The camp itself was spared during the wildfire in the area but there are slash piles that need to be burned.

Forest Service personnel plan to burn slash piles near Payson Lakes area early this spring, pending weather conditions. The project area is located in Payson Canyon near Maple Dell Scout Camp, four miles southeast of Payson. The project will take approximately one day to complete.

“Smoke may be visible from surrounding areas and the I-15 corridor the day of burning and for several days following ignition while the piles fully consume,” he said. “The public is encouraged not to report the smoke.”