Source: The Idaho Statesman, Statesman Staff, 3/20/2014 and Forest Service
The popular 60,000-acre recreation site east of Boise remains closed because Forest Service officials say there are dangerous trail conditions after last year’s Elk and Pony fires.
The closure, which has been in place since the fires late last summer, applies to motorized and mechanized use, including bicycles, the U.S. Forest Service said.
The extremely hot fires burned brush and roots, which are important to hold soil in place.
Eroded trails, softened soil, trail depressions caused by burned roots, damaged bridges and burned snag trees are all contributing to the dangers of the area.
“I have been, and continue to be, concerned with the hazards that exist in this recreation area due to the fire damage,” said Stephaney Church, Mountain Home District ranger.
Officials said two recent accidents have occurred – one involving a Forest Service worker, and another a private citizen. The accidents involved ATVs that rolled off the trail and down steep slopes because of soft and eroded trails.
“These people were lucky they were not killed and until we can fully assess the damage, fully implement a restoration plan, and begin to see accomplishments with mitigating the hazards, public use of this area is dangerous and prohibited,” Church said.
Vegetation and wildlife are slowly recovering and the Forest Service considers the area fragile.
Volunteers can help with replanting
Volunteers will plant sagebrush and bitterbrush seedlings in portions of burned areas on March 29 and April 5.
The project is being coordinated by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and there are enough plants to utilize at least 50 volunteers each day according to Michael Young, F&G’s volunteer coordinator.
Volunteers can sign up for either day by contacting Michael Young at 327-7095 or at [email protected]o.gov.
Transportation and planting tools are provided by the agencies. The planting area is primarily north of Mountain Home.
“Getting plants into the ground at every opportunity is a significant benefit to the on-going and continuing efforts to enhance the fire recovery and rehabilitation goals,” Church said.