POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - The damage from a big summer wildfire near Pocatello is getting covered up.
The Bureau of Land Management is conducting helicopter operations and mulch application treatments around Chinese Peak for about two weeks. The Pocatello Field Office awarded a contract to Columbia Basin Helicopters to apply wood straw mulch to about 128 acres of land that was burned by the 1,546-acre Chinese Peak Fire on July 19, 2020.
The project will rehabilitate and stabilize the land to prevent further resource damage. The base of operations is located at the old drive-in theater location off South 5th Avenue.
BLM Public Affairs Officer Bruce Hallman says the new mulch is intended to help bring the terrain back to life.
"Plants are used to fire, and so any seeds that are in the ground have the potential to resprout," Hallman said. "But, we have planted additional wild grass and forbs, and the whole aspect with this mulch is to cover them, to keep them from washing away, blowing away, and having birds eat them."
An Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plan has been developed to address erosion and vegetation concerns immediately following the fire.
Hallman says that the wildfires don't cause the erosion of the land, but do make the soil bare, which is taking away from the plant cover.
"If there's living plants with roots, that really helps bind the soil, so that the erosion doesn't happen," Hallman said. "If you don't have any live plants or established plants that will come back the next year, then that's just leaving the soil open to be carried away, which is what erosion is."
According to BLM, the earlier contract seeded approximately 460 acres with a grass/forb mixture and an additional 1,363 acres with a sagebrush/forb mixture. The mulching operation beginning next week is similar to a successful treatment that was conducted after the 2011 Drive-In Fire, in which wood straw mulch was applied following aerial seeding.
For Hallman, he believes this will help bring back beauty to the Gate City.
"It's not very enjoyable if it's just a burn scar," Hallman said. "So, the quicker we get it back to looking good, then wildlife and people alike will just benefit all the more."
The entire operation is expected to take 12 days, with 6-8 days of helicopter activity planned within that time frame.