How Forest Treatment Saved the Bray Creek Ranch

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Michael A. Johns

Bray Creek Ranch is an old homestead along the Highline National Recreation Trail, which is a part of the Arizona Trail, at the base of the Mogollon Rim about twelve miles north of Payson, Arizona between Boy Scout Camp Geronimo and Girl Scout Camp Shadow Rim. The ranch is surrounded by National Forest in the Ponderosa Pine type at about 6,000 feet elevation.

I started my Federal career in 1969 on the Payson Ranger District Helitack Team. In 1972 we formed the District’s first Hotshot crew and I was asked to be its first foreman. In 1973 I clerked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was appointed as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1974. I have been representing the United States, Federal agencies, and Federal employees in litigation for over 40 years.

We purchased Bray Creek Ranch in 1983 from a retired District Ranger. In 1985 the Kehl Fire burned through the headwaters above us and down to our private land. KTVK Channel 3 had covered the fire, and loaned us helicopter time to re-seed the burn with native grasses provided by the Forest Service.

In June, 1990 the Bray Fire, an escaped camp fire, re-burned the headwaters and lands to the east and west of us along the Highline Trail. The ranch is in a canyon at the end of the road and was loaded with fuel, making it a potentially dangerous place to fight fire. Bark Beatles were killing many of the Pine trees, increasing the hazard. We were part of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) issue with fire threats posed to and from the National Forest.

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