By Dave Maxwell
A controlled burn of about 240 acres on the middle marsh of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge along U.S. Highway 93 south of Alamo was held recently. Manager Rob Vinson said it was designed to do two things, “habitat management and to remove material for potential wildfires.”
He thought the last time the middle marsh was burned was about 2005. “The marshes had so much duff, the dead vegetation in it, a lot of the migratory birds coming through couldn’t use it, mostly tulies and cattails. The burn removed that and reset the marsh. It’s not a good food source for those birds or any other use when it is that thick.”
He said the burn opened up new areas where water can be seen and new areas for birds to utilize. “My target for the burn was for waterfowl and sandhill cranes.”
Ross Wise, the wildlife refuge fire management officer from Las Vegas brought a crew in that used drip torches. Vinson said Jim Docktor put in fire lines for more control, “and we used backfiring techniques to be able to burn through the marsh.”
In order to control the vegetation from regrowing to the same level in the next 10 years, Vinson said the plan is to use deeper water levels to control the vegetation. “Hardstem bulrushes and cattails don’t grow well on over three feet of water, so we can use water depths out there. We want to shoot for a 60-40 opening out there.
After the burn, Vinson said the march is about 75-80 percent open which is pretty good. “We are just starting to add water and it’s hard to see how much water might be on the landscape, but I’m pretty pleased with it right now. We’re planning to use fire as a management tool in the future, too, maybe every year or every other year.”