Fire rehab calls for recreation restrictions

Posted at 5:56 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 20:23:51-05

It was the largest wildfire in the country for several weeks last summer. Once the Soda Fire was 100 percent contained, plans began to restore the landscape.

Now with spring just around the corner, a warning for outdoor enthusiasts.

Authorities in Owyhee County will be monitoring entries into burned areas come springtime.

While a formal closure is not in place, they're asking that trails in that area be avoided all together.

In Aug. of 2015, a wildfire ignited just outside of Marsing near the Southwest Idaho/Oregon border.

Nearly 280,000 acres burned before the fire was contained. It scorched land inhabited by sage grouse, whose numbers are steadily on the decline.

The push to plant as many native plant seedlings in the area will prove to be beneficial for the wildlife and could help prevent a fire from starting in the first place.

Since the end of Sept., 61,000 sagebrush starts have been planted in the devastated area.

If the area was left unattended, invasive weeds could thrive and potentially add fuel to a fire.

"If cheatgrass establishes in the area after a large fire like this has burned, it takes over," said Jessica Gardetto, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Soil erosion is another major concern for BLM officials, which is why they're asking the public to avoid the area all together. According to Gardetto, soil erosion can leave the area vulnerable to flash flooding.

While the rehab project time frame heavily relies on the number of staffing and weather conditions, the current estimation for a full recovery is 3-5 years out.

"The biggest thing that people can do to help with this effort is to avoid the area, largely because rehabilitation work is going on right now," Gardetto said. "In some cases, we may have helicopters in the area and using ATV's and biking... even hiking off of the trails in the burned area can slow down the rehabilitation effort."

Volunteers are adding to the rehab effort and if that is something that interests you, contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game office in Boise by dialing (208) 334-3700.

Also, if you're planning to take the ATV's out, hike or bike soon, we have some alternative trail systems for you to consider:
- Fossil Creek OHV Trails are accessible between the Melba Junction and Oreana on Highway-78.  A trail map is available online or at the BLM offices in Boise and Marsing.
- Silver City offers camping and hiking in a partially restored 19th-century mining town in the Owyhee Mountains.
- Owyhee Back-Country Byway and North Fork Campground  - At the western end of a scenic backcountry drive, camp and picnic on the North Fork of the Owyhee River Canyon, much of which is designated Wilderness.
- Pickles Butte OHV Area in Jubilee Park, west of Nampa, Idaho, is a former military tank training compound with 370 acres of open riding.
- Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail  is a quiet escape above the city in the Boise Foothills, at the end of 8th Street.  The trail is for pedestrians only.  Bicyclists and equestrians may enjoy the many other trails in the Ridge to Rivers Trail System. 
- Bruneau Dunes State Park offers hiking and equestrian trails, water and sand sports, an observatory and camping around the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America, in the high desert south of Mountain Home.
- The 485,000-acre Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area has one of the world's densest concentrations of nesting birds of prey.  In addition to outstanding bird and wildlife viewing, this area offers hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping and target shooting.
- The Danskin Trail System (US Forest Service) encompasses 60,000 acres and provides more than 150 miles of mountainous/high-desert motorcycle and ATV trails on the Boise National Forest, northwest of Mountain Home, Idaho.
- Steck Park offers access to Brownlee Reservoir along the Snake River from the Idaho side of Hells Canyon, with two boat launching facilities and two camping areas, about 20 miles northwest of the town of Weiser.