Saturday, February 20, 2016

2015 Soda Fire ESR -- Interview with Idaho BLM (part 2 of 2)

Continuing with the second part of my e-mail interview with Idaho BLM about the 2015 Soda Fire ESR. Sorry I am posting this a day late.

Q5) RRamblings: Is emergency stabilization the first step in post-fire recovery and if so, can you briefly describe what progress is made to date and when they will be completed. Perhaps focusing on soil/water stabilization; habitat for sage-grouse, threatened and endangered species; and noxious weeds and invasive species.

Idaho BLM: Yes, emergency stabilization is the first step in post-wildland fire recovery.  To date, we have completed numerous soil/water stabilization activities, such as waterbarring in areas prone to water run-off, drill and aerial seeding to prevent soil erosion, and repairing culverts to prevent flooding.  We have used aerial herbicides in areas where there was a large concentration of cheatgrass and medusahead pre-burn to prevent their reemergence and provide a blank landscape for us to replace them with desirable perennial grasses that will stabilize the soil and create a healthy environment for us to go in and plant sagebrush seedlings at a later date.  The aerial and drill seeding in other areas of the burn also helps us to combat the spread of cheatgrass and medusahead by putting those desirable perennial grasses there to out compete with the invasives and make the soil more stable for sagebrush in the future.  We finished drill seeding for this season in early January and should have the aerial seeding complete the first part of February.  There will be more herbicide, drill and aerial seeding this spring.  All of this activity will not only benefit the sage grouse, but other native animal and plant species who call this landscape home.  

Q6) RRamblings: How long will it take to reestablish sage-brush and other native plants? Will there be a negative impact on wildlife?

Idaho BLM: It will take many years to re-establish a functioning sagebrush community.  The length of time depends on many variables such as seeding establishment, weather, moisture. Wildlife will move to other areas while Soda recovers.  However many of the treatments will provide new and lush perennial grass growth that is desirable to upland and big game species.

Q7) Rramblings: When will the Burned Area Recovery (BAR) start?

Idaho BLM: ES or emergency stabilization funding can continue for up to 18 months after the fire.  Burned Area Recovery funds can be utilized from years 1-5 depending on the treatment. However the program is being revised as we speak and these time frames can change. 

Q8) Rramblings: Can you briefly describe any challenges in implementing the post-fire ESR plan?

Idaho BLM: It is always a race against time when doing ESR work.  Weather and contracting challenges are a common occurrence, but we work through them and get things done.
Q9) Rramblings: Is there anything else that you would like to say to my readers? 

Idaho BLM: Multiple use management adds challenges to an already challenging ESR program.   ESR plans are to be completed and signed within 21 days after the fire containment and treatments begin immediately.  Challenges include obtaining funding, and procurement requirements that make purchasing goods and signing up contractors prior to optimum treatment windows.   Large and complex and multiple fires that span several years are challenging to personnel.  The work that government employees in the Boise District do is hard, complex, but their effort comes from the heart. I want people to know that we do this work because we love and believe in it and there isn’t anything else we would rather be going.

Thanks to staff from the Idaho Bureau of Land Management for taking the time for this e-mail interview. I learned a lot.

My final article in this series will be some personal reflections that I plan to post on Monday, February 22.

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