Wyoming Department of Transportation

Landowners invited to educational forum/public meeting on prescribed burning in Worland

Date: 04/08/2010 




Thursday, April 8, 2010


Landowners invited to educational forum/public meeting on prescribed burning in Worland


An educational forum/public meeting on prescribed burning in central and northwest Wyoming has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, in Worland.



Landowners, ranchers, farmers, and citizens are encouraged to attend the 9 a.m. to noon session on Tuesday, April 13, at the Washakie County Fairgrounds.

“Prescribed burning occurs annually in counties throughout the Big Horn Basin and Fremont County, and speakers at this forum will cover the legal aspects of prescribed burning, public safety, and concerns related to burning in state highway rights-of-way,” according to Cody Beers, Wyoming Department of Transportation public involvement specialist in Riverton. “Our goal is to work together with county officials to promote responsible prescribed burning and public safety.”


The tentative agenda includes presentations by Washakie County Attorney William Shelledy and the Washakie County Sheriff’s Department, Chris Jones of the National Weather Service in Riverton, and WYDOT. Utility companies are being invited, along with county fire wardens from Washakie, Big Horn, Hot Springs, Park and Fremont counties.


Officials will be available to answer questions from farmers, ranchers, landowners and citizens during the Tuesday morning forum, which is being coordinated by WYDOT.


Prescribed burning has impacted state-owned property in Washakie and Big Horn counties this spring.


Citizens conducting prescribed burning are criminally and civilly liable for damages to state property, including right-of-way fencing and other state property, inside the state rights-of-way.


“From WYDOT’s perspective, the safety of the traveling public, workers and volunteers in the rights-of-way is first and foremost in decisions made regarding activity on or along the state highway system,” said Shelby Carlson, WYDOT district engineer in Basin.


“The situation of burning highway rights-of-way generates safety concerns for the traveling public by the potential of limited visibility caused by low hanging smoke and damage to fences, signs, sign posts, guardrail and permitted utilities. Damage to any of these items may increase the potential for a crash or otherwise jeopardize the safety of the highway user,” Carlson said.


Carlson said fences are impacted by prescribed burning near the rights-of-way. “The use of metal posts minimizes damage to fence posts from fire, but fire destroys the galvanization of steel posts and the integrity of the wire, and may either destroy or severely damage the brace and end panels which are constructed of wooden posts,” she said. “Wire that has been damaged by fire cannot be stretched for fence repair, and it must be replaced because the tensile strength is destroyed. This lengthens WYDOT’s response time to repair a fence breach, and it increases maintenance costs.”


Some of the state highway rights-of-way in question are held by WYDOT through permanent easements. But although the title to the land belongs to the grantor of the easement, a highway easement brings with it all of the laws, rules, policies and authority that go along with the control of highways.


Chapter 12 of the WYDOT Rules and Regulations states in part that “any use of the right-of-way which interferes with construction or maintenance of the highway, or safe use of the traveling public, shall be considered an unlawful encroachment.”


Wyoming law makes these unlawful encroachments misdemeanor offenses on state-owned or controlled lands.


MEDIA: Questions about this news release may be directed to Cody Beers, WYDOT District 5 public involvement specialist, at 856-1341.



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