The Minidoka Ranger District, with assistance from Pheasants Forever and Idaho Department of Fish and Game, completed aerial seeding on the Badger Fire this week. Seeding occurred on land affected by the Badger Fire of 2020, including 700 acres in Hudson Ridge and 3600 acres in the Dry Creek and Rock Creek Areas. Scott Soletti, a Wildlife Biologist on the Minidoka Ranger District said, “seed was flown on aerially using fixed wing aircraft on a day where winds were light enough to minimize seed drift and hopefully get seed on the ground right before a snow storm that will hopefully cover up the seed to improve germination rates and reduce seed blowing and seed predation as well.” Hudson Ridge is an area that is important for sage-grouse on the east side of the South Hills and the Dry Creek and Rock Creek areas are critical mule deer winter range.
According to Soletti, “The objectives of the seeding on Hudson Ridge was to reduce the potential for invasive plants to dominate the site and to reestablish sagebrush cover at an accelerated rate for sage-grouse. In the Dry Creek and Rock Creek areas, the objective of the seeding was to reestablish shrub species for mule deer winter habitat in patches across the winter range. The goal is to accelerate the shrub recovery and to provide patches of shrubs to naturally seed into other burned areas on the winter range in the future. Ultimately, we all want to provide quality mule deer habitat in the South Hills both now and into the future. At this point, we really need more snow over the fire area to improve post fire vegetation response.”
Randy Thompson, District Ranger for the Minidoka Ranger District, said, “The seeding work we accomplished this week would not have been possible without Pheasants Forever, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) help. Pheasants Forever handled the contracting and purchasing for the entire project under our agreement with them and the National BLM seed warehouse worked with the Forest Service to procure sagebrush seed quickly. IDFG and their Mule Deer Initiative, stepped up in a huge way and provided the funding for all of the sagebrush seeding work in the Dry Creek and Rock Creek areas as well as provided a place to store the seed while waiting for ideal weather conditions to conduct the flights. Moving forward, we will continue to look at opportunities to work with partners on addressing post fire recovery. We anticipate a bitterbrush and sagebrush planting project in the fall of 2021 with our partners in the Dry Creek area for mule deer and sage-grouse habitat benefits. The Forest Service and IDFG will be looking for volunteers to help with implementation of that project in the future.
The seeding is the last of the winter work on the Badger Fire with further field work commencing in the spring.