Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Recovery project planned after Fish Fire

The U.S. Forest Service has announced its plans to rehabilitate the land burned during the recent Fish Fire, with the goal of reducing the risk of beetle infestation, mitigating future fire hazards and restoring the forest vegetation.

The Fish Fire was finally declared controlled just over a week ago, having burned a total of 6793 acres. This included 3230 acres of National Forest lands.

According to a press release, "The Forest Service is proposing to remove burned pine from areas of 100 percent mortality and from areas of partial mortality, while retaining trees that are likely to survive on National Forest lands. The proposed project would also include planting local ponderosa pine seedlings and protecting resprouted burned aspen from browsing, as needed."

The area in question would include Fish Canyon, Adams Canyon, Silver Creek, Duling Hill and Iron Mountain.

According to the project description, the fire immediately killed almost all the ponderosa pine trees on around 500 acres of National Forest lands. On an additional 1800 acres, it did not kill trees outright, but damaged them to the extent that they are unlikely to survive.

"In this condition, they are susceptible to infestation by pine engraver beetles (ips pini), which may spread to adjacent unburned areas," states the description.

After the burned trees fall, the Forest Service is concerned that they may complicate future fire suppression and increase the risk to firefighters.

"Heavy, slow-burning fuels release high levels of energy and usually require indirect attack and additional equipment and personnel, increasing the time that firefighters are exposed to hazardous conditions and driving up suppression costs," states the project description.

"Combustion of these fuels on the ground surface can cause severe soil damage, and the extreme heat is likely to kill any tree seedlings that are present."

Merchantable material will be removed and sold, according to the plan, and non-merchantable material will be scattered, chipped, piled and burned, or otherwise treated. Activity will then also include seeding on disturbed ground, suppression of noxious weed.

Tree removal will also take place on land under non-Forest Service ownership through Good Neighbor Authority agreements with the State of Wyoming.

The Forest Service is accepting comments on the recovery project at or by mail to mail to: Attn: Fish Fire Recovery Project, Bearlodge Ranger District, P.O. Box 680, Sundance, WY 82729 until September 22.