What does restoration in the Seeley Fire burn scar look like after 10 years?
The Seeley Fire burned over 45,000 acres in Carbon and Emery Counties in 2012. Restoration efforts have been going on since then. Nicole Nielson is the Statewide Wildlife Impact Analysis Coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. She says a primary concern immediately following the burn was erosion, especially given the steep topography of the area.
“Immediately after the fire, we worked with landowners impacted, the Forest Service, and private landowners to try to do some seeding efforts. We picked areas where we thought we'd have really good success getting the seed to establish to try to stabilize those slopes to minimize erosion,” Nielson said.
And these efforts have proven successful. “It seems like our upland has really healed well, we've seen really good early plants, such as wildflowers, and grasses that have come back, the shrubs are coming back," Nielson added.
After seeding efforts, Nielsen says the DWR along with collaborators began working on stream restoration. A key component in this restoration work included implementing beaver dam analogs, or BDAs. “I mean, basically, we're mimicking beaver dams. So what happens is the water slows down, then we, and that allows the sediment to fall out of the water and allows your streams to upgrade. We did start seeing really good riparian improvements or stream improvements," she said.
Now that stream habitats have been improved, the DWR has been able to reintroduce native fish, such as speckled bass this summer, and they are also planning on releasing cutthroat trout. Nielson explained that stream restoration will be an ongoing process
“It can be long, because you kind of have to allow one area to heal from your rehab efforts and stabilize so that you can move downstream. So we'll just continue working in in streams where we see needs for, you know, either better fish habitat or where we see the potential for fish reintroductions,” Nielson explained.
Nielsen emphasized the importance of collaboration for such a large scale restoration and conservation effort, and says this work is possible thanks to DWR’s partners.