By Heidi Schewel of the Coronado National Forest 

Recent winter storms have left snow deposited on the Santa Catalina Mountains, much to the delight of skiers and winter enthusiasts. While some roads were seasonally closed for the winter, snow caused other roads to be temporarily closed throughout our “Sky Islands. Roads impacted by snow may cause issues for drivers, and vehicles may become stuck, sometimes to the point of requiring assistance with rescue operations. Additionally, wet or slushy road surfaces may be damaged by the weight of vehicles traveling over them.  As the weather becomes warmer and snow and ice melt, gates will reopen when roads can be safely travelled with minimal damage to surfaces. 

Recreationists should watch rising water levels in streams. Snowmelt in the high country will cause water to flow downhill to the lower elevations. Rain falling on snow will accelerate melting and could cause flooding. Canyons and low-lying areas should be avoided during stormy weather. Storms occurring uphill from trails and wading sites may fill streams and washes in a matter of minutes. It’s helpful to know that it doesn’t need to be raining in a particular area for water levels to rise. Streams may fill quickly from runoff generated by melting snow or storms occurring miles away. 

 Hikers are advised to “Know Before You Go” and check weather forecasts before venturing out. The National Weather Service website for this area is, forecasts may be searched by location.  

This time of year, environmental conditions become favorable for prescribed burning on the forest. Decades of fire-exclusion have left forests overgrown, with too much vegetation. Wildfire’s natural role in our ecosystems is to burn periodically at low intensities to keep landscapes open and cleaned of excess vegetation. That’s also a goal of prescribed fire, which is a treatment for overgrown landscapes. Planning for prescribed fires takes years, and when the scheduled time arrives, conditions such as temperature, relative humidity and fuel moistures must all be “in prescription” for the burn to proceed. If conditions are right, fire managers carefully apply fire to the land to burn away excess vegetation, improve range and watershed conditions, improve wildlife habitatreturn the ecosystem to a more fire-resilient state, and reduce the likelihood of future high-intensity wildfires. Smoke may be evident; however, smoke generated under controlled conditions of prescribed fire pales in comparison to smoke generated from an uncontrolled wildfire. 

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