Prescribed fires this month will improve Clearwater elk habitat

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Roger Phillips photo Prescribed burns scheduled on 23,000 acres in the northern Clearwater this month will improve elk habitat.

Prescribed burns on 23,000 acres in the Clearwater are slated this month in an effort to promote elk habitat in high elevation forests.

The burns in the North Fork and Lochsa-Powell Ranger Districts of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will start when conditions allow and could result in short-term road, trail and area closures, officials said.

The annual, summer prescribed fire projects this month will begin when weather and fuel conditions are optimal, officials said.

“Summer prescribed burns vary only slightly from the spring and fall burns,” said North Fork District Ranger Andrew Skowlund. “Working in these areas a few weeks before typical fall burning, provides us with longer days, more predictable weather and fuel conditions and better opportunities to accomplish project objectives.”

The burns will be low-smoke events and should promote the regeneration of plant species that elk use as forage.

“The prescribed fire treatments will provide for the sustained availability of elk forage and overall forest resiliency,” said Lochsa-Powell District Ranger Brandon Knapton.

Fish and Game as well as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation partner with the U.S. Forest Service to promote elk habitat in the areas slated for prescribed burns.

“We’re hoping to see landscape-level fire treatments so we can get a population-size impact on elk,” said Clay Hickey, Fish and Game’s Clearwater Region wildlife biologist.

The five burns, including 2,956 acres at Weitas 10 miles north of the Lochsa historical ranger station, 876 acres 7 miles northeast of Lowell at Coolwater Ridge, 7,066 acres located 25 miles northeast of Pierce, 1,229 acres 14 miles east of Kelly Creek Work Center and 1,986 acres located 16 miles north of Kelly Creek Work Center probably won’t all be burned this year, rangers said.

If smoke concentrations impede air quality, ignitions may be delayed until air quality improves. Most of the smoke is expected to dissipate in a day or two after the fires.

For more information on the Lochsa-Powell prescribed burns, call Sean Gaines or Neal Cox at 208-926-4274. For more information on the North Fork prescribed burns, please call Brandon Skinner or TC Peterson at (208) 765-7480.

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