Canyon Fire plan in works

VALE – The Vale BLM has wrapped up its assessment of the Owyhee Canyon Fire, which burned nearly 22,000 acres in June.

The fire, sparked by lightning June 5, was contained by Vale District Bureau of Land Management fire crews, aided by the Jordan Valley Rangeland Fire Protection Association and contract crews June 8.

Bureau policy requires BLM staff to create a draft plan for Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation of the area within seven days of containment. A final plan is due June 28.

“This initial plan includes the best and most effective treatments we can suggest at this point in the process,” said Pat Ryan, Malheur Resource Area Field Manager at the Vale District. “Once the plan is submitted, we’ll move forward with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures which will allow for public review and comment.”

Of the acreage burned, 21,075 acres is BLM-managed land and 701 acres is privately owned. The fire area is identified as general sage-grouse habitat as well as mule deer winter range. One sage-grouse lek (a mating area for sage-grouse) was identified as being within the burn perimeter.

The fire also burned 4,120 acres of the Owyhee Canyon Wilderness Study Area (WSA), one livestock grazing allotment and damaged 16 miles of livestock management fences.

The BLM says the burn will adversely affect sage-grouse and other species that rely on sage habitat.

Invasive species such as Scotch and bull thistle, whitetop species, Russian knapweed, and rush skeletonweed have all been documented in the area. With the burning of competing native vegetation, these species are likely to spread unless they are treated.

Possible actions include treatment of noxious weeds, repair of fences and livestock structures, temporary deferent of grazing on the affected area, construction of temporary fences, herbicide applications, sagebrush restoration and monitoring.