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

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.





  1. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    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. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    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.

    1. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      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”.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan