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Umatilla National Forest Wildfire Restoration Update
2021 wildfire interactive story map provided

As the smoke clears from the unprecedented wildfire activity on the Umatilla National Forest this year, Forest officials will be considering several options to restore the landscape within the burned areas moving forward. Fires burn at different intensities in different areas, so specific actions will vary.

Three large wildfires burned more than 150,000 acres total and approximately 105,000 acres on the Umatilla National Forest this summer. While all the fires are now contained, some hazards may still exist including burned or dead trees, stump holes, loose rocks or logs, or isolated areas of burning material.

After any major wildfire, the landscape is transformed from the soil up to the tree canopy. Post-fire recovery work and timelines are greatly influenced by the size and severity of the wildfire. Some activities, such as suppression repair, occur prior to containment to restore impacts from suppression operations, including rehabilitating hand and dozer fire lines, roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points. Additionally, erosion control measures are implemented during suppression repair, such as constructing water bars (angled trenches) to route water and planting native seed.

Forest Service officials also assess hazards that remain in burned areas after fire, such as fire-weakened trees, rock fall, and areas of high erosion potential that can lead to landslides. These assessments are completed by a Burned Area Emergency Response Team (BAER) that comes in to evaluate imminent post-wildfire threats to life, safety, property and critical natural or cultural resource needs. BAER Teams have assessed and identified emergency treatments on the Lick Creek, Green Ridge and Elbow Creek fires that burned on the Pomeroy and Walla Walla Ranger Districts. Over the next several months, Forest staff will conduct emergency treatments, which include placement of roadside and recreation safety signs, replacement of damaged boundary and travel signs, repair of road and trail drainage structures, seeding around threatened and endangered species, and treatment of noxious invasive plant species.

In addition to these efforts, the Forest is developing long-term restoration strategies to help the landscape recover and become more resilient to future disturbances. Scientists and other specialists assisted Umatilla National Forest staff in identifying the ecological damage and making recommendations on specific actions that could help the area rebound naturally. Additionally, Forest staff are developing proposals for potential areas to conduct salvage harvest and replanting. Since the fire has burned in a mosaic pattern, there may be very different biodiversity impacts at different locations and elevations.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The Forest is also evaluating infrastructure damage from this summer’s wildfires, including campgrounds, day-use areas, bridges, roads and trails. The most significant impacts identified are to the numerous trail systems within the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. Trail maintenance and reconstruction, as well as removal of fallen trees, will be a recurring need for several years following the wildfires. This type of work will be part of the Forest’s long-term post-wildfire restoration strategy. Falling trees and unstable trail surface are currently potential hazards in the burned areas and the public should use caution when recreating in areas that have recently burned.

To keep the public updated on post-fire recovery and long-term restoration, the Umatilla National Forest has developed an interactive story map.

Updates on fire-related projects and restoration will be posted on the story map as they are developed. The story map also provides a summary of the 2021 wildfire season, interactive maps highlighting this year’s wildfire activity, photos and maps on treatments that aided in firefighting efforts, and continued restoration activities moving forward.

Some roads remain closed. Umatilla National Forest officials are evaluating fire closures regularly and will modify or lift closures as soon as it is safe to do so based on fire activity and suppression operations. Sites directly impacted by wildfire may remain closed after fire activity has subsided while the Forest assesses hazards. Falling snags and limbs, stump holes, unstable ground, rock falls, downed trees, debris flows, and landslides can all occur in a post-fire landscape.


--Bruce Armstrong

Post Date: 2021-11-01 13:46:22Last Update: 2021-11-01 16:35:49



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