Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Soda Fire (2015): Burned Area Emergency Response: Drill Seeding

On November 30th I wrote about the challenges that invasive weeds pose after the loss of so much natural vegetation such as sagebrush that burned in the recent Soda Fire. If my understanding is correct, there may already be some established invasive weeds such as medusahead and cheatgrass. The concern here is how to prevent invasive weeds such as cheatgrass and medusahead from spreading to the sagebrush-steepe ecosystem that was burned in the Soda Fire. 

The BLM has recently begun to the crucial phase of emergency stabilization. The Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ES&R) Plan encompasses treatments for many threats, one of which is the threat posed by invasive weeds.  The treatment that I will discuss here involves seeding perennial grasses to prevent invasive weeds from taking over. Seeding will be done on the ground by drill seeding as well as aerial seeding from aircraft. Timing is crucial, the hope is that the perennial grass seeding that is being done this fall and early winter will germinate in the spring and thus prevent the invasive weeds from taking over. Perennial Grasses also make for good sage grouse habitat. Follow along as I share a few sources with you on the drill seeding treatment component of the Soda Fire ES&R. I don’t want to leave out aerial seeding operations which I understand are also going on, but I have no videos at the moment about the aerial seeding operations. If my understanding is correct, drill and aerial seeding will be going on for a total of five years including this year.

In the video from BLM Idaho that I am embedding below you will be introduced to the use of what are known as rangeland drills to begin to stabilize the burned areas to both stabilize the soil and prevent invasive weeds. As I understand it, the rangeland drills that the BLM is using are standard rangeland drills used in farming that are modified for use in this habitat. Rangeland drills prepare the land for seeding as well as spreading seed at appropriate depth.

BLM Idaho has a nice Flickr page with photos and a few short videos showing rangeland drills working on November 10th in the Soda Fire burn area.

On November 10th, at least two Idaho broadcast media outlets ran stories on reseeding areas burned in the Soda Fire, 7-KTVB and KIVI-TV6. I am never certain how long these links will be available, so if you are arriving at this post sometime later and these links are dead you will know why.  In the story from kivi-tv6 story and video from Kivi on drill seeding (video embedded below) Robert Bennett, a range technician for the BLM says:
When an area becomes dominated by invasive annuals, it does tend to burn more often. They are very fire prone.
And Cindy Fritz, a natural resource specialist for the BLM speaks about the Fall 2015 the drill seeding operations which are laying out perennial grasses in the burned area:
We’re putting them out this late in the year which is ideal. We want them to go through the winter and when they wake up and germinate in the spring, they are in perfect conditions.
Fritz goes on to speak to the fact that it will take 15 to 20 years to get back to the conditions that existed before the Soda Fire.

Here us a nice story with video from KIVI-TV6 about the BLM's emergency stabilization post Soda Fire.

In a report (with video) on drill seeding from 7KTVB,  Robert Bennet spaces about the threats to the sage grouse and how these threats are being addressed by the ES&R:
The two biggest threats for sage grouse are increase fire return and invasive annual grasses, which play into your fire return interval. So putting desirable plants out here to compete with invasive annuals will send this on a trajectory toward improved sage grouse habitat, or recovering the safe grouse habitat.
In addition to the sources that I have linked to above, you might also enjoy BLM Idaho's page devoted to the Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation and the 2015 Soda Fire Facebook Page (with pictures and comments about the Soda Fire ES&R efforts this fall.

I do hope to write more about the Soda Fire Burned Area Emergency Response this coming Friday, December 4th. Stay tuned. 

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