"Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains"
I started my season about 3 weeks ago but got the opportunity to travel to another forest to help with a BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) project. So I spent a week and a half near Kettle Falls, WA working on that. For Forest Service fires over 500 acres an assessment is supposed to take place to evaluate the need for action. They bring in lots of "ologists" to assess threats to animals, plants, watershed, archeological sites and infrastructure. If deemed by the initial assessment an implementation crew comes in to mitigate threats. The fire areas I was working in had burned late last summer and in the fall they did the initial evaluation and implementation.
some areas were completely charred and devoid of plants still
others had grass and wildflowers blooming despite the fire being not much more than 6 months ago
The main role of BAER implementation generally ends up being protecting roads. Burned slopes along roads within a certain grade (steep enough to be of concern for landslides, gentle enough that they can hold material without it just sliding off the hill) have straw or wood chips spread across them. This helps prevent erosion, protects any remaining topsoil, absorbs some of the water and with that moisture retention promotes biological activity in the soil. Without the organic top layer of topsoil and plants lots more water travels down hill, that coupled with the fact that the soil is also very loose (no organic material holding it together) makes landslide a huge concern after fires. I arrived to the project after they had done the mulching (dropped via helicopters) so I didn't get to be involved with that.
pink areas on maps to the left are "high severity burn areas" where I worked
Bonus to working in a burned area...TONS of morels!
Saw lots of shattered rocks like this, I think they got so hot in the fire it caused this
an old leg hold trap
most of the wolf packs in Washington live in the NE section of the state
It was neat to work in a different area and see all the morels and wolf tracks...things I hadn't seen before. We have a wolf pack in my district but the female was poached a little over a year ago. The biologist told me it's unlikely the pack will survive without her. I also got to learn more about using Avenza and ArcMap which though aggravating at times, was great for me because I just love maps. I was working about 10 days straight for 10-14 hours a day so I was ready to come home in the end.