So far, six counties across the state, including San Juan, Box Elder, Wayne, Carbon, Grand and Emery counties have declared a state of emergency at the county level because of extreme and exceptional drought conditions. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, this is one of the driest years in the past 19 years, “which is the driest 19-year period in recorded history and one of the driest in the past 1,200 years.” So I am genuinely shocked and frustrated about the lifting of the fire ban in southeast Utah.
I just don’t understand; we are still in an extreme and exceptional drought. The area I live in did not get a monsoon season this year nor did we get one in 2017. There are areas all over southeast Utah that haven’t received any substantial precipitation in almost two years; the area I live in is one of those. The pinyon/juniper forest is having a mass die off; pinyons are dying at an alarming rate, with juniper, blackbrush, Mormon tea etc., all struggling and dying in many, many areas.
The region saw one of the hottest, smokiest summers in decades, fires all over the West, and the heat hasn’t stopped. It is highly irresponsible and premature to have lifted the fire ban. Two fires started just last week in other parts of Utah, one burning almost 10,000 acres caused by target shooting, leading the Bureau of Land Management to ban target shooting in certain regions.
This week we are once again in Red Flag warning for high heat, strong winds and dry conditions which lead to high fire danger. As long as the region is in an extreme and exceptional drought we continue to be at risk of fires. The fire ban needs to continue. It’s the intelligent and responsible thing to do for the safety of our communities and our public lands.