Land managers rehabilitating land scorched by MM14 Fire

The Bureau of Land Management is working to bring back habitat lost in the fire that burned near Hilltop Station in July.

ADA COUNTY -- Thousands of animals will be looking for a new place to eat and take cover after the Mile Marker 14 fire scorched 4,311 acres of open space.

Starting Saturday, for the next four days the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working to stabilize that land. It has been almost two months since the MM14 Fire broke out near Lucky Peak reservoir, charring habitat that is crucial for elk and mule deer in the winter months.

MORE: BLM responding to wildfire near Hilltop Station

Land managers tell us the impact from the fire to wildlife up there was significant, so they're working to bring that natural habitat back.

"There will not be any food and there will be no cover for them to survive winter," Idaho Fish & Game Wildlife Habitat Biologist, Krista Muller, said. "That's a major challenge on our end."

To bring back lost vegetation and steady this vital watershed for nearby communities, BLM and Fish & Game are rehabilitating the land, starting with stabilizing the hillsides and preventing erosion and run-off.

"We wanted to get in here before the first major rain event," BLM Natural Resource Specialist, Cindy Fritz, explained. "This is just a temporary fix until we can get some vegetation reestablished on site."

Crews put down wood straw covering to prevent soil and ash from coming off hillsides and down into homes and drainages in the area.

"It's not straw. It's actually a wood material and it's basically kind of like a sheet of plywood that they put through a paper shredder. So it comes out in this pixie stick form," Fritz said. "This stays on our hillsides a lot better."

Native plants were seeded underneath the covering, and because it is a partial covering, it will allow moisture and sunlight through- sprouting some new greenery.

This fall and winter, BLM and Idaho Fish & Game say they will work together to seed other greenery like sage brush and blue grass, which will be crucial for animals' survival come winter time. But specialists say the effects won't be seen overnight.

"Our main concern this year is we can have up to 7,000 mule deer and 1,500 elk come down to this property this winter," Muller said. "Rehabilitation- getting habitat back to a stable state- takes a long time. So this rehabilitation effort is going to take up to five years until we really start to see any changes on the landscape."

Fish & Game wants to remind the public that much of their land- including trails- is still closed because of the MM14 Fire and the Table Rock Fire. There is no public access within those burned areas because land managers don't want possible vegetation to be trampled on or game to be disturbed. They tell us they will make an announcement when it is be re-opened.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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