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Brush mulching reduces wildfire, water contamination risk

Leah Hogsten
Salt Lake Tribune
Fire mitigation efforts are underway in Parleys Canyon.

Crews are clearing vegetation in nearby canyons to reduce wildfire risk on the south side of Interstate 80.

A multi-agency fire-mitigation effort to clear oak brush from fire-prone areas is not only to diminish the chances of wildlands burning. Reducing fire risk also helps protect Salt Lake City drinking water. That’s according to Summit County Communication and Public Engagement Director Derek Siddoway.

On Tuesday, machines with industrial mulchers attached to them went to work breaking down flammable trunks and branches in Parleys Canyon. Eventually, they’ll do the same in Lambs Canyon. The work is expected to last through the fall.

Siddoway says there’s an unnatural amount of oak brush in those areas, which if burned could pose a threat to as much as 20% of Salt Lake City’s drinking water. By clearing some of that excess, another goal of the project is to make room for more plant species to grow, as well as more animal species to thrive because of plant diversity.

Summit County asks hunters and anyone who spends time in the area to be careful around crews at work.

Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities is helping with the work. State and federal agencies joining in the effort include the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Grant funding for the project comes from the Utah Shared Stewardship agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as the Utah Legislature’s watershed restoration project.