The 50,000 acre fire was 3 years ago-

The Idaho Mountain Express has an article detailing the regrowth in the big burn next to Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho. This is a very popular recreation area, so its restoration is noticeable to a lot of people. Similar articles could be written about several million more acres of burns in central Idaho — burns of the last decade.

The Idaho places where restoration is not going well are the millions of acres of rangelands (more properly sagebrush steppe) where cheatgrass has fueled vast fires, destroying native grasses, forbs and shrubs, creating more of itself for future fires. This year about 3/4 million acres of Idaho rangeland has burned.

Related. Utah has mildest wildfire season in a decade. By jason bergreen. The Salt Lake Tribune

More related. Rain, snow and lower temperatures help tame central Idaho wildfire. Idaho Statesman.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

3 Responses to Natural restoration advances rapidly in the big Castle Rock burn near Ketchum/Hailey, Idaho

  1. avatar Barb Rupers says:

    It has been 100 years since the Great Burn of 1910.

    My mother, 4 years old at the time, lived near Craigmont, Idaho and remembers the days being almost as dark as night; Grandpa said turkey vultures arrived in large numbers to consume the dead animals.

    The increase of ungulates in the Clearwater and other affected areas of Idaho and Montana following these fires would not have been possible without this event and the subsequent regrowth of grasses, herbs, and shrubs; now the plants that supported the ungulates are being replaced by coniferous trees which do not.

    Also, it is partially because of these fires that there are large “wilderness” areas in Montana and Idaho on public lands; without trees there is no logging, without logging there is less need for roads.

    The Lolo will not support the number of ungulates it did in the 1980s because the habitat is not there (my opinion).

  2. Barb Rupers,

    I agree.

    With so many fires in Idaho in recent years, however, I believe the elk habitat is increasing in many areas, though this change is sometimes obscured by the presence of livestock, such as the bands of domestic sheep in the regenerating burns to the north and east of Cascade and McCall, Idaho.

    • avatar Barb Rupers says:

      I visited areas east and west of McCall and Cascade in the 1980s and was appalled at the destruction of high meadows caused by sheep and cattle. Looking for wildflowers amidst flattend meadows and cowpies was not very conducive for return trips. I never have.

      Hopefully, the ungulate habitat is improving following the burns but some will still blame the wolves for any loss of their opportunity to kill (oops, harvest) elk.

      Recent burns are possibly a benifit for western forests as long as the USFS doesn’t try to build roads to “salvage” the “destroyed” timber”.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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