After shutdown, agencies struggle to rehab scorched Idaho wildlands

Credit: KTVB

After shutdown, agencies struggle to rehab scorched Idaho wildlands

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on October 27, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 12:05 PM

BOISE -- The federal government shutdown is over, but it's still impacting Idaho by causing a major backup in the rehabilitation of land burned by this year's wildfires.

The emergency stabilization process to re-seed the burned out areas was set to begin weeks ago, but federal employees were furloughed during that time. Now, they're rushing to restore thousands of acres before colder weather moves in.

Bureau of Land Management Spokesperson MJ Byrne says during the key time to re-seed, everyone was furloughed.

"It just put a halt to a lot of very important work that has to go on, after these fires," said Byrne. "With the shut down they we were extremely frustrated, because they weren't able to do anything."

After nearly 3 weeks, workers were finally able to return.

"Literally the day the shutdown was lifted they were saying, 'okay where do we go'," Byrne said. "They're ready, they're going, they're trying."

Now, workers are busy re-seeding, repairing fences, and helping to control erosion.

"Right now what we're focused on is the fall projects," said Byrne. "To try to get as many of those accomplished before we literally get weathered out."

That's because when the cold weather moves in, the restoration stops. So until then, workers are trying to make up for the precious time they lost.

"We're holding our breath, hoping mother nature will give us a little bit of extra time."

Byrne says another concern is that the shutdown has delayed the funding needed to get all the rehabilitation work complete. She says they are focusing on the areas burned by the Pony Complex fire in Elmore County where erosion has already caused issues.

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