In a little less than a month, it will be the one year anniversary of the Henry Creek’s Fire. It was one of the biggest fires in Bonneville County’s recent years, but now things are looking up.
The Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area is well in the process of being restored to what it was before it caught fire.
“First impressions after the fire were concerning for a lot of people. To come out here and see that all gone was very alarming,” said Ryan Walker, the Idaho Fish and Game Tex Creek district habitat biologist.
It’s a drastic contrast from last year to now. Grasses and flowers are now replacing the black ash.
But the lack of sage brush is a huge concern. The plant does not respond to fires like others, but its need is crucial — being a big portion of the mule deer’s diet in the winter.
“It can be a very difficult plant to reestablish especially after a fire, versus a lot of the aspen and other woody species out here that respond very well after fires. Sage brush is typically not one of those,” Walker said.
Idaho Fish and Game typically do a couple hundred acres of field conversions a year, but the more than 52,000-acre fire created a work load that was overwhelming.
“Sage regeneration typically — if we left it alone and things went well, we’re talking 20 or 30 years. We’re maybe hoping we can neck that down to maybe 15 years. So, it’s still going to take a long time to get sage brush back,” Walker said.
With remnants of burned branch skeletons still scattered in Tex Creek, the goal is to have as much foraging brush for animals come winter time.
“Overall, after seeing the response the first year, I’m more confident in how it’s going to respond in the long-term. A lot of what we do is dependent on the weather, and so there’s still room for everything to turn sideways,” Walker said.
This fall, the restoration will continue. Idaho Fish and Game plans to plant 200,000 sage brush seedlings in Tex Creek. After that, the area will continue to be monitored and maintained for growth for years.
Other state and federal organizations have also helped in restoring Tex Creek. The Bureau of Land Management seeded the area back in February.