Monday, February 15, 2016

2015 Soda Fire ESR -- A very brief introduction to the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan (2 of 2)

This second article, a very brief introduction to the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan (2 of 2) is slightly different from what I had originally conceived. You may recall from my article of Friday, February 12th (part 1) that I had referred you to a BLM web page listing all planning documents related to the Soda Fire ESR/BAER Plan where I referred readers to the first document on that list, the BLM Idaho Post-Fire Recovery Plan Emergency Stabilization and Burned Area 2015 Plan (aka the2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan). In preparation for this article I went in and skimmed the other two planning documents on the BLM web page listing all planning documents related to the Soda Fire ESR/BAER Plan. I found what I thought were some differences across these documents that confused me. After some initial struggles where my eyes were starting to glaze over, I ended up making some more drastic changes to my early draft. The result is what you see here. In the spirit of trying to keep things simple, I will go into a little more detail in this article on treatment areas as described in the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan. I have revised the article I wrote on February 12th to reflect the changes I made to this article since the 12th.

In my previous article (Friday, February 12th), I listed treatment categories from the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan for Emergency Stabilization — ES (S) and Burned Area Rehabilitation — BAR (R), which I list again for your convenience:
  • S/R2 Ground Seeding 
S/R3 Aerial Seeding 

  • S/R4 Seedling Planting 

  • S/R5 Noxious Weeds 

  • S/R6 Soil Stabilization 

  • S/R7 Fence/Gate/Cattleguard 

  • S/R8 Road/Trail Water Diversion 

  • S/R9 Cultural Protection 

  • S/R10 Tree Hazard Removal 
S/R11 Facilities 

  • S/R12 Closures (Area, OHV, Livestock) 

  • S13 Monitoring
S/R14 Other Treatments (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, p. 11)
There were many things of interest to me as I learned more about the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, and the recovery from the 2015 Soda Fire. In the spirit of brevity, I will only focus on areas that are of the most interest to me. That is. I am going to talk about treatments used to address threats to riparian & aquatics, wildlife including the greater sage-grouse, and noxious weeds. All are described in some detail in the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan.  I will leave it to the reader to read more if you so desire. 

There is much from the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan that I am not discussing here such as treatments that will address threats to transportation infrastructure, cultural resources, recreation, horses & burrows, to name a few. 

As you continue to read I’d like to draw your attention to S/R2 ground Seeding (drill seeding) which is a treatment under both wildlife, and noxious weeds. S/R3 aerial seeding is a treatment under riparian & aquatics, and wildlife.

Riparian and Aquatics (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, pages 17-9)

“Fire may result in a large array of direct and indirect effects to aquatic species and riparian habitats. Direct effects to aquatic populations will generally occur in riparian areas where burn intensity was high. These areas are typically denuded of all vegetation and, during the fire, could have experienced increased water temperatures, decreased oxygen availability, and ash loading into streams. Since some of the drainages burned very hot, aquatic species may have died as a result” (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, p. 17).

Treatments to address the threat to riparian and aquatics are: R7 fence (repair and replace fencing), S3 aerial seeding, R11 facilities (repair and replaces facilities damaged by the fire), and R4 seedling planting (for soil and water stabilization).

Wildlife (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan pages 20-8) 

Under wildlife, the top concern is for the greater sage-grouse (sage-grouse). Other wildlife species are also impacted, at least temporarily by the loss of the sage brush: e.g. bighorn sheep, mule deer, and pronghorn. The brewer’s sparrow, sage thrasher, and brewers thrasher are also impacted by the loss of sagebrush. Finally, the golden eagle will be impacted by the loss of prey.

Treatments include: S5 noxious and invasive weeds (aerial applications of an herbicide prior to drill seeding), S2 ground seeding (drill seeding), S3 aerial seeding (grass), S3 aerial seeding (shrubs and forbs) and S14 other - juniper removal. You may read about the details of each treatment in the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan pages 20-8).

Noxious Weeds (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan pages 34-8)

“Noxious weeds are present in the burned area. Noxious weeds are now recognized worldwide as posing threats to biological diversity, second only to direct habitat loss and fragmentation. Noxious weeds are known to alter ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycles, hydrology, and wildfire frequency; out-compete and exclude native plants and animals; and to hybridize with native species” (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, p. 34). Noxious weeds are listed on pages 35 to 36 of the 2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan.

The first treatment listed under noxious weeds is, not surprisingly, S5 and R5 noxious weeds. This treatment includes monitoring and assessments of noxious weeds in the area burned by the 2015 Soda Fire, inventory of noxious weeds, photos and mapping of infestations of noxious weeds, treatment with chemical and bio-control agents (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, p. 37). Related to this is an herbicide trial under S5 and R5 noxious and invasive weeds (2015 Soda Fire ESR Plan, p. 38).

S2 ground seeding (drill seeding) is the other treatment listed for noxious weeds.

Next-up: Interview with Idaho BLM (in two parts).

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