Prescribed burn ignites debate at Devils Tower

Remnants of the prescribed burn smolder on Thursday at the tower. (Jeff Moberg photo)

By Sarah Pridgeon

High winds caused a 300-acre prescribed fire at Devils Tower to escape control on Wednesday, expanding a further 56 acres across the monument. A spot fire in the southwest corner was pushed up a steep hillside by the winds and torched woody plants outside of the burn area.

The fire was quickly converted from prescribed burn to wildland fire to allow additional firefighters to be called in. It burned power lines and impacted electricity for up to 20 residences in the surrounding area.

The park reopened the next day but climbing routes continued to be limited to the west face and the campground was temporarily closed for private camping. The tower trail was re-opened by Friday and other trails are undergoing mop-up and should be open by the end of the week, says Reed Robinson, Superintendent for Devils Tower.

The prescribed burn was part of the Belle Fourche Unit Fire Management Plan, which calls for dead fuels such as exotic plants and herbaceous growth to be removed to encourage native prairie grasses and forbs to grow.

Ogden Driskill, who owns land adjacent to the tower, has officially requested that burns no longer be used as a management tool on the front side of the tower in the “postcard shot.”

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