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Monday, November 23, 2015

Forest Receives Funds and Begins Implementing Post-fire Treatments

Kamiah, ID – Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will receive 1.09 million dollars to implement recommendations from several Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams.  These actions are needed to protect life, property, and critical resources from post-fire affects.

While the fires were still burning, BAER teams were ordered and began work assessing conditions in fire perimeters on the Jay Point, Boulder, Slide, Wash, Tepee Springs, and Woodrat fires, the Motorway, Red River, Elk City, Larkin, and Lochsa South Complexes during September and October.  Teams were made up of specialists in soils, hydrology, geology, engineering, wildlife, botany, and archaeology, and were primarily determined by the size of the fire and the nature of the values potentially threatened by post-fire effects. 

Each team conducted a rapid assessment of the fire areas to determine whether the post-fire affects posed a threat to life or property or would cause unacceptable degradation to natural or cultural resources. 

Potential threats to visitors and agency personnel include flooding and debris flows, hazard trees, and rock fall along trails and at trailheads, developed recreation sites, and dispersed areas that are within, downstream or downslope of burned areas.  Watersheds within fire perimeters are likely to generate higher stormflows and are more susceptible to erosion which in turn threatens stream water quality.  Forest transportation infrastructure is a widespread value at risk of damage from post-fire erosion.  Road treatments will be targeted to effectively drain anticipated runoff during the next several years.  Noxious weed control is recommended and will be monitored and inventoried in burned areas near roads, dozer and hand lines, drop points, camps and other susceptible sites.

Evaluation of the nature of the threat and its potential impact prompted the recommendation of emergency treatments.  “BAER funds will provide necessary treatments such as culvert stabilization, drain dip construction, post-storm road inspections, and trail drainage improvements, allowing visitors’ access to areas that otherwise may be closed due to inaccessibility or public safety,” said Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert.

Collectively BAER teams have identified 36.6 miles of trail work on 22 trails, 306 road treatments on 38 forest service roads, 21 cultural sites for monitoring, 575 acres of weed management, 46 days of monitoring sites other than roads, installation of 186 public safety warning signs, one water system, two vault toilet sites, and 17.7 miles of road and two recreation sites requiring spot hazard tree removal. 

Forest personnel are prioritizing the recommendations and acquiring needed supplies and equipment to complete work this fall as the weather allows.  Additional items will be completed in the spring of 2016 and all items recommended should be completed within one year of fire containment.

In addition to recommending emergency treatments teams also identified the potential cost of no-action. The calculation includes erosion damage on public roads needed for Forest Service and public access, damage and failure of trails, and the potential for noxious weed infestations.  The cumulative cost of not completing recommended repairs to roads, trails, and other infrastructure, addressing forest personnel and public safety concerns, and treating areas susceptible to invasive noxious weeds is in excess of five million dollars.

Team BAER reports, fire maps, and Burn Severity maps can be accessed at http://ftp.nifc.gov/incident_specific_data/n_rockies/2015_fires/2015_ClearwaterPostFireAssessment/ .