It’s been a year since last June’s Table Rock Fire in the Boise Foothills destroyed 2,500 acres of wildlife habitat. Sparked by illegal fireworks, the blaze burned and blackened the sagebrush-covered landscape. Over the last 12 months, a group of people and agencies have worked to restore the area.
Martha Brabec says she’s seeing progress when she travels through the burn area. As Boise Parks and Recreation’s Foothills Restoration Specialist, she’s on the front lines of the fire recovery effort.
“So when I’m out there, I’ve seen a lot of marmots, I see a lot of squirrels, I’ve seen badgers, I’ve seen snakes. So I think we’re restoring the components of a functioning ecosystem,” says Brabec.
The area that burned was owned by a mosaic of landowners, including the City of Boise, Idaho Fish and Game and private landowners. They’ve had to work together to get past burned habitat and red tape.
Using a $100,000 donation from Zoo Boise, the city initiated a collaborative effort to restore the area. Their goal is to recover native wildlife habitat, control invasive species and reduce erosion, all while getting volunteers involved in the rehab effort.
Weather has played a key role in restoring the burn area. A cool, wet fall and spring gave plants, including seedlings, a good head start.
“Weather is the number one of restoration success and we more or less hit the lottery,” Brabec says.
In the fall of 2016, the city applied herbicide over a large section of the burn area to control cheat grass and medusa head. Volunteers planted 3,500 sage brush and bitter brush seedlings. They also seeded 20 acres with native grasses and wildflowers.
Brabec is surprised by the resilience of native plants and their own natural regeneration.
“I think that the fire created an opportunity by removing all of the invasive species. There has been this open window for native plants to make an effort to come back,” says Brabec.
It’s a three-to-five- year strategy that includes pulling weeds by hand in some spots, to keep invasive species down. They’ll also apply more herbicide and plant more sage and bitter brush seedlings.
Brabec says recovery of the landscape is dependent on weather, hard work and keeping fire away.
“Be careful in the Foothills this time of year and do not start fires under any circumstances and do not use fireworks,” Brabec says.
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