Friday, November 8, 2013

County helps fund post-fire rehabilitation

Program will add native seeds to erosion-control effort

Express Staff Writer

The Beaver Creek Fire burned to within close proximity of numerous houses in Greenhorn Gulch, above. The wildfire last August scorched more than 110,000 acres in and around the Wood River Valley. Express file photo

    A private and public funding partnership will add wildlife forage to reseeding efforts intended to control erosion on national forest and private land this fall following the Beaver Creek Fire.
    On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Blaine County commissioners approved a request for $49,000 in funds from the county’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program made jointly by The Nature Conservancy, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Idaho Conservation League. In their application, the organizations agreed to provide a 25 percent match of $16,500--composed of $7,500 from each of the first two groups and $1,000 from the ICL.
    The money will pay for a native seed mix that will be applied with seeds of non-native, sterile rye plants intended for short-term erosion control on 4,900 acres of public land in the county. The aerial reseeding will be applied to areas in Greenhorn Gulch, the Deer Creek drainage, Curran Gulch in the Croy Creek drainage and Alden and Badger gulches in the Warm Springs drainage.
    Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said the district had requested money from the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., to fund reseeding for erosion control on 12,000 acres, but only received enough to cover 5,900 acres, of which 1,000 acres is in Camas County.
    “If you don’t have the native seed in there, you don’t knit together the watershed protection with the ecological value to the species that are in the area over the long term,” Nelson said in an interview following the meeting Tuesday.
    The commissioners also agreed to provide $7,000 from the Land, Water and Wildlife Program for native seeds to be included in a $112,500 reseeding program on private land. According to the conservation organizations’ application, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service has agreed to supply 75 percent of the cost of that effort contingent upon a local match of 25 percent. The commissioners decided that 75 percent of the local match should be paid by the owners of the property where the seeds will be applied.
    Commissioner Angenie McCleary said the owners of property in Greenhorn Gulch with whom she had spoken had said they would consider paying part of the local 25 percent match if the Land, Water and Wildlife funds did not cover all of it, but property owners in Deer Creek had expressed reluctance to do so on the grounds that the reseeding would not benefit their property.
    In defense of her contention that the county should help pay for reseeding on private land, McCleary said efforts to include native seeds “do help with stabilization but their biggest benefit is to wildlife.” Nelson said the private lands are important winter wildlife habitat.

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