IDAHO CITY -- The 2013 wildfire season in Idaho was one of the worst on record, with three massive fires destroying homes and forcing thousands of evacuations.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, the Pony, Elk, and Beaver Creek fires burned a total of nearly 400,000 acres.

Those three fires were some of the largest in the nation, and cost more than $40 million to fight.

With this year's fire season just around the corner, there's a new push for a project that would reduce fire fuels in an a popular area near Boise.


In 2013, we told you about the controversial 'Thin the Threat' campaign that was aimed at cutting out some dense forest areas.

The U.S. Forest Service is now behind a plan to use several methods to thin nearly 20,000 acres in the Boise National Forest.

The Becker Project has been in the works for years, and is now a top priority in an effort to protect a pocket of federal land from wildfires, and the recreational opportunities it contains.

From the vast forest scenes, to the wildlife, to trails and yurts, the Beaver Creek Basin, between Idaho City and Lowman, has everything for outdoor enthusiasts.

Wildlife biologist Mike Feiger says all six yurts in the area are booked most of the year as visitors flock to the area in all four seasons to ski, bike, hike, fish, hunt, and just enjoy the outdoors.

The forest is a key part of that experience said Feiger. They want to see the trees and the smells, the sound of winds through the pines, all those components are important to that experience.

But while the trees offer the perfect wilderness getaway, they also offer the threat of wildfires to an area all to familiar with devastating flames.

Idaho City District Ranger Brant Petersen showed us a map of the area and the surrounding acres burned over the past few decades.

These are all previous burns, Trinity is down here, Rabbit Creek is here, and you get up into these Lowman burns here, on every side of it it's burned, said Petersen.

The Forest Service says the 19,000 acres targeted by the Becker Project is an island of green surrounded by remnants of previous burns, with the danger growing ever closer to the popular outdoor playground.


Because of the conditions out here, definitely have a large degree of risk for a large scale catastrophic fire to occur, said Feiger.

Which is why the Forest Service is pushing the plan to thin out the area and reduce potential fuels.

First, they would log, then cut down the smaller trees.

There will be a lot of thinning that will take place, that will involve chainsaws, mechanical thinning, those type of operations, said Petersen.

Then, they would also use prescribed burns.

The goal would be for the entire forest to be thinned out with distance between trees, and canopies, making it less likely for a massive fire.

If we don't address that threat in some way, I think there is a very real risk that what has happened in Trinity Ridge, in Elk, in Lowman, could very well happen here and we lose that island of forest experience that is being lost elsewhere, said Feiger.

The goal would be to start the project by the end of 2015, and it would take about 7 to 10 years to complete.

No word yet on the cost of the project.

Officials say there would be periods where some recreational areas would be temporarily off limits for a few weeks, but they say the long term benefit would be a healthier forest.

They are accepting public comments on the plan until June 9. To give your opinion, and read more about the Becker Project, click HERE.

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