Planting the Seeds for Forest Fire Recovery

With forest fires ablaze throughout the western U.S and Canada, the question arises of what occurs in the aftermath during the long process of a forest rehabilitation plan. An article in the Idaho Press takes a look at a new initiative that’s planting the seeds for forest fire recovery in the future.

Rehabilitation after wildfires costs time and money. Extensive work is required to restore the land to its original form to support livestock grazing and habitat for native species, according to the Idaho Press. The immediate concern of agencies after fires is the hydrological functions on the ground, since flash flooding and erosion can occur. After assessing the threats to the watershed and drinking water in nearby communities, a long-term plan of replanting vegetation is the next step.

The Long Draw fire in 2012 that devastated 550,000 acres in Oregon was estimated to cost $25 million, according to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) report. This was needed to plan, seed, repair and build fencing, stabilize the soil and other rehabilitation measures. "It will take a whole host of biologists and plant specialists and fire people working together probably well over the next two or three years to pull it together and design a long-term plan," Jim Whittington, spokesman for the Oregon Forest Service told the Idaho Press.

Since the Long Draw fire was mostly on BLM land and rangeland, and with 16 grazing permits on the land, grazing was prohibited for at least a year. "Areas burned by wildland fire, including those subsequently rehabilitated will be rested from grazing for one full year and through a second growing season at a minimum, or until monitoring data or professional judgment indicate that health and vigor of desired vegetation has recovered to levels adequate to support and protect upland function," states the rehabilitation plan.

The Murphy Complex fire burned more than 600,000 acres in 2007. According to the BLM, by 2012 after extensive planting and seeding, the area was headed toward becoming a functional wildlife habitat. The process of rehabilitating land after a fire is a complicated one that varies from fire to fire and depends on the funding and resources available and what is necessary for the land, said Larry Moore, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management Vale District.