Restoration efforts underway to repair land damaged by the Pioneer Fire

Posted at 9:29 PM, Oct 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-05 14:02:54-04

Nearly 200,000 acres of land were charred in the 2016 Pioneer Fire that burned near Idaho City. With the help of EcoFlight, reporter Lacey Darrow as able to get a birds-eye view of the burn scar. 

"We like to say giving a flight like this, like we did today gives the land a voice,” said EcoFlight President Bruce Gordon.

While the area of land it touched is hard to grasp from the ground, the dead and dying trees are easy to pick out from the air.

"It's quite a fire. I haven't seen a big fire like that in a long time,” said Gordon.

“It obviously had a big impact on folks that like to recreate up there and wildlife and fisheries and other resources,” explained Jonathon Oppenheimer with the Idaho Conservation League.

The US Forest Service with the support of the Boise Forest Coalition has been in the process of removing some of the dead trees and will be planting new ones. 

Representatives from the Idaho Conservation League said the trees pose a risk to many of those who use the lands to recreate. They said when the trees fall over the next few years, many will land on the roadways. While they said they are not usually for salvage logging, in this case, they felt that the project struck a balance.

The funds from the logging will then help pay for some of the restoration work in the area.

 “To try to shore up the streams of the bull trout habitat and also making sure that were able to restore and keep some of these important recreation areas open into the future,” said Oppenheimer.

But not everyone is on board with the work.

A lawsuit was recently filed by three conservation groups concerned that removing the trees could destabilize hillsides and lead to erosion and landslides that could hurt protected bull trout. The Boise Forest Coalition said they need to work together with the timber industry to ensure funds to complete the restoration work to make sure Idahoans can enjoy the land for years to come. 

"I think the work we’ve done to work together with diverse stakeholders to find common ground on our public lands is some of the most important work we do,” said Oppenheimer.

The Idaho Conservation League said it’s important to note that the salvage logging area will only affect roughly 10 percent of the area burned in the pioneer fire.