Though work will begin this fall to solidify areas damaged by mudslides that followed the Beaver Creek Fire, federal land managers said they will seek public input before committing to long-term trail rehabilitation projects.
During a public meeting Monday at the Community Campus in Hailey, BLM and U.S. Forest Service officials told the 50 or so people attending that funding had been approved for aerial seeding and mulching projects this fall and early winter.
Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said a contract to aerially apply mulch and then seed to 2,000 acres of Forest Service and BLM land should be finalized by today, Nov. 6. Nelson said the first priority for treatment will be in Greenhorn and Imperial gulches where homes are, then Alden Gulch, on the north side of Warm Springs Road, and Baker Creek, north of Ketchum. He said the third-priority area will be Kinsey and Curran gulches in the Deer Creek drainage.
Joe Miczulski, recreation forester for the Ketchum Ranger District, said the district has received $137,000 to fund a six-person trail crew next summer to rebuild the lower Cow Creek Trail to provide access to the Mahoney and Lodgepole Creek trails, which were spared the worst ravages of the Beaver Creek Fire by having been burned in 2007 by the Castle Rock Fire. Miczulski said the district has requested $395,000 to rebuild the Greenhorn and Osberg trails.
“Our first priority is going to be getting something open that’s logical out Greenhorn,” he said in an interview.
John Kurtz, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM’s Shoshone Field Office, said grass and forb seed will be applied to another 2,135 acres in Democrat Gulch west of Hailey at a cost of $192,000. The area has a network of trails built specifically for mountain biking. In an interview, fire ecologist Joe Russell said that work should begin Dec. 10 and continue as long as there is not too much snow, noting that the south-facing slopes there melt quickly.
“Our first priority is going to be getting something open that’s logical out Greenhorn.”
Ketchum Ranger District
Nelson said trail repair will be a three- to five-year project. However, he said, the Douglas fir and lodgepole forest severely impacted by the fire won’t return to its previous green condition during the lifetime of the people attending the meeting. Kurtz said at least a decade will be required for sagebrush to regrow in the Croy Creek drainage.
Kurtz said most native plant seeds may have been washed to the bottom of the drainages that have experienced mudslides, and the BLM has requested $15,000 per year for the next three years to combat noxious weed infestation in Democrat Gulch.
Trails in badly burned areas will remain closed to summer and fall use until at least spring 2015 so they can stabilize following rehabilitation work, though they will be opened during winter. BLM Shoshone District Manager Beth Maclean said there’s no point in beginning trail reconstruction until land managers can see how the trails are affected by debris flows next spring.
“We get essentially one shot, if we get funding,” Maclean said.
Ketchum Ranger District Trails Supervisor Renee Catherin said rebuilt trails will be better than what’s been there.
“Every place that got hammered [by the mudslides] are places that we probably shouldn’t have been in anyway,” she said.
Deer Creek resident Chip Deffe raised the point of whether it might make more sense to spend trail construction money on areas that had not been burned.
“That’s a community discussion that needs to happen,” Nelson said in response.
He said the Forest Service and BLM would like to get input this winter and spring on the public’s priorities, though no means of doing so has yet been determined.
“We wanted to give people an idea of what we’re thinking now,” he said.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress