Pioneer Fire Recovery and Restoration Update
Incident: Pioneer Burned Area Emergency Response Burned Area Emergency Response
Three Phases of the Pioneer Fire Recovery
Fire Suppression Repair is a series of immediate actions taken to repair damages and minimize potential soil erosion and impacts from fire suppression activities.
Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is a rapid assessment of burned watersheds to identify imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, proper, and critical natural or cultural resource on National Forest System lands. Immediate actions are prescribed and taken to implement before the first major storms.
Recovery and Restoration
Long-term efforts that evaluates and identifies a range of actions or tools to reduce hazardous conditions, improve fire-damaged lands that are unlikely to recover naturally and to repair or replace facilities damaged by the fire.
Fire suppression repair is almost complete on both the south and north zones of the fire. More than 72 miles of dozer line has been seeded and/or brushed over. (Spike camps and drop points have been seeded and wood mulch has been applied for soil stabilization.)
BAER treatments are ongoing. Seventy-Five percent of the roadwork is complete, including upsizing culverts to convey increased flows or provide aquatic passage and water bars are in place on well-traveled roads. Warning signs are posted throughout the fire area and sensitive cultural sites have been protected and they are being monitored. Aerial seeding and wood mulching are continuing in upper elevations of watersheds that experienced a high severity burn. By next week, 100 percent of the trail drainage work is expected to be completed.
Recovery and Restoration
The larger, longer term forest recovery efforts are underway. Two teams are identifying a variety of actions to address health and safety, resource protection and natural resource restoration. Actions addressing these objectives, health and safety coupled with resource protection and restoration will be designed to help the Boise National Forest jump-start its forest recovery.
Staff continues to make progress to define actions and explore other opportunities for recovery and restoration including Emergency Situation Determination (ESD) and Good Neighbor programs. Field work for Team 2 actions is ongoing and expected to be completed by December 2017. Develop a Proposed Action and other direction for an
Environmental Assessment to be completed this winter.
TEAMS Working Together
The primary focus remains on public health and safety along public access trails/roads, in coordination with BAER efforts.
1) Hazard trees in sensitive resource areas will be cut and left where they fall in locations where effects cannot be mitigated to acceptable levels.
2) Hazard trees on travel routes and within developed sites where effects to sensitive resources can be mitigated, are being assessed for use of salvage sales to remove hazard trees and provide a wood product important to local communities. Two roadside hazard tree salvage sales totaling about 1 million board feet are expected to be awarded this week. Additional hazard tree salvage opportunities are being evaluated and may be available this winter including within the Pine Flats campground to allow this local favorite camping location to be opened the spring of 2017.
3) The areas around two of Idaho State Parks and Recreation’s Yurts are scheduled to open in early November following actions taken to make these areas safer. Plans are in process to address safety issues around the other three Yurts not directly impacted by the fire, as well as to find a suitable replacement location for the Yurt that was burned down in the fire. The goal is to have these remaining four yurts open later in 2017.
Team priorities are to focus on public health and safety, restoration and resource
protection within the three existing project areas: Becker, Rock Creek and Clear Creek. Before the Pioneer Fire, these projects had a variety of actions proposed for implementation ranging from resource protection, recreation infrastructure improvements, reforestation and wood product removal.
The team will address these three previous decisions, now effected by the fire, and determine which actions in the original decisions can still proceed and which will require additional assessments to determine what modifications are needed before proceeding.
The fire changed both biological (e.g., forests and wildlife and fish habitat) and physical resources (e.g., soil and hillslope stability, and water quality) conditions in all of the project areas. Environmental Assessments and public involvement are being planned with decisions expected in late spring to early summer 2017.
Other areas outside the initial projects will be considered for resource protection and restoration needs later in 2017 and 2018, including opportunities to use additional salvage as a tool to further reduce risks to public health and safety and generate revenues to support restoration activities.
Areas for reforestation, either planting or natural regeneration, are also being evaluated from data collected showing vegetation burn intensity. The focus for planting will be in those areas with the higher burn intensities where little to no live trees remain that would produce seed to support natural regeneration.
An emergency situation in 36 CFR 218.21(b) is defined as:
A situation on National Forest System (NFS) lands for which immediate implementation of a decision is necessary to achieve one or more of the following:
1) Relief from hazards threatening human health and safety.
2) Mitigation of threats to natural resources on NFS or adjacent lands.
3) Avoiding a loss of commodity value sufficient to jeopardize the agency's ability to accomplish project objectives directly related to resource protection or restoration.
Authority to authorize Emergency Situation Determinations (ESDs) rests solely with the Chief and Associate Chief. Current regulations concerning authorization of an ESD exempt a project from the administrative review (objection) process (3-4 month planning time savings).
Good Neighbor Agreement: The term “good neighbor agreement” means a cooperative agreement or contract (including a sole source contract) entered into between the Secretary and a Governor to carry out authorized restoration services under section 8206 of the 2014 Farm Bill.