The East Saddle Forest Management Project is improving moose habitat

The Nez Perce-Clearwater State Forest and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) Clearwater Region are working together on management projects that improve wildlife habitat on State Forest land. One such project is the East Saddle, where the Forest Service recently implemented recommended burnout to improve habitats for elk and other wildlife.

East Saddle Integrated Restoration Project, a joint project of the Forest Service and IDFG, is located in the North Fork Ranger District of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests in the Cayuse Creek Basin District south of Old Kelly Creek Work Center, extending to the west of the Work Center and to the north from Kelly Creek to the North Fork of the Clearwater. The main aim of the project is to improve the browsing of ungulates, such as elk and deer, while providing better summer and winter coverage of elk and fawn habitats. Recommended firing, logging and aspen restoration are used in the project plan as a means of achieving these goals.

On October 19, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests conducted ordered firing as part of the East Saddle Project. Many units totaling approximately 1,000 acres were successfully burned.

“We’re really pleased with the results,” said TC Peterson, a fire and fuel specialist for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, who recently recommended incineration in the East Saddle. “On average, this combustion consumed 80-90% of the target fuels in the designated units, which is an excellent success rate.”

Supporting the elk population in this National Forest area is a management priority for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The Lolo zone By the end of the 1980s, the elk herd had reached its peak at around 16,000 animals, and the population has been steadily declining since then. Projects such as the East Saddle are being developed together to improve key summer, winter and transitional habitats that are essential for elk foraging and greenhouse habitats.

“The firing recommended by the East Saddle is an excellent example of how fire can be used as a tool to improve forest conditions and wildlife habitats,” said Tara Ball, a regional wildlife biologist at the IDFG. “The prescribed fire not only stimulates new growth that improves the forage of the elk, but also creates a mosaic of new and old vegetation, providing a variety of habitats in the forest system, which is important for many species of wildlife.”

While smoke is an unavoidable by-product of recommended combustion designs, the smoke produced during planned combustion is much less than that which would be produced by a fire.

“The smoke from the October 19 East Saddle fire rose about 2,000 feet above ground level and drifted eastward,” recalls Jim Wimer, National Forest Fire Information Officer. “The winds were weak this afternoon, so the smoke was mostly in the Kelly Forks drainage.”

Smoke monitors deployed in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys did not show any effect on air quality during these recommended fire operations. Later that night, some smoke swept across the Continental Divide, but it dispersed quickly and the air quality remained intact.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department and the Forest Service plan to continue working together on such projects.

“We expect such projects to see more, thanks Good neighbor authority Agreement between the Forest Service and Idaho Fish and Game, ”said Ball.

If you have questions about wildlife habitat improvement projects in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (208-799-5010) or the Forest Service (208-451-5585).

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