The City of Prescott is conducting an interagency vegetation restoration project at Willow Lake Reservoir to showcase the challenge of simultaneously managing water resources, providing wildlife habitat and reducing wildfire risk while also offering quality recreational opportunities.
The demonstration project, the first of its kind at this location, will last from Tuesday, Nov. 8 to Friday, Dec. 16. Work will occur during normal business hours, Tuesday through Friday. Trails in the vicinity will be closed on these days to protect the public from hazards associated with equipment and vehicle use to remove felled wood. Fire crews will perform most of the work, removing vegetation below the reservoir spill level (5140'), clearing the trail of hazardous limb and ladder fuels, and improving the density of stands along the trail corridor. Whenever possible, removed vegetation will be recycled into woodchips or fuel wood.
"It's a balancing effort, to address the many needs of man and nature in an urban setting," said Water Resource Manager Leslie Graser. "Our main objective here is to protect water quantity and quality, while respecting new habitats which formed once the water body ceased to be drained for agricultural purposes. Reducing shrub and plant overgrowth will not only enhance water and land conditions, but improve the accessibility of trails and reduce the risk of wildfire."
City departments involved in the project-Prescott Fire, Recreation Services and Water Resource Management-are collaborating with the United States Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify and monitor the impact on wildlife. Noel Fletcher, wildlife biologist with Prescott National Forest, worked with Arizona Game and Fish to identify the nesting and migratory habitat use patterns of local species.
"This project is being timed to have the least impact on the least number of individual animals, in particular the birds associated with Willow Lake," Fletcher said. "Bald eagle foraging would not likely be impacted by the project and will be monitored to determine if habitat use does change. By implementing the project in the fall or winter, the disturbance will occur outside the breeding season when most birds are mobile and can move away from vegetation treatment activities."
A project area map is available at www.prescott-az.gov. For more information contact Marsha Collier, Fuels Management Coordinator, at 928-777-1713, or Steve Mancha, Recreation Services Supervisor, at 928-777-1581.