April 18, 2012 | Back to: News

Agencies work together to rejuvenate land decimated by 2001 Martis fire

FLORISTON, Calif. — Hillsides charred by a 2001 wildfire might finally bloom with fields of native plants this spring, thanks in part to a restoration plan sponsored by the Sierra Business Council and Washoe County.Financed by a $211,000 job creation grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the restoration plan includes funding for aerial reseeding of the Martis fire burn area.Reseeding started earlier in April, and by project's end, efforts will have dropped 16 pounds of native seeds per acre over approximately 220 acres of private land near Floriston. The planting is a dual attempt both to stave off further encroachments of invasive species and to quicken restoration of the natural landscape.“The seeds are really small, and we would expect them to germinate right away given the right moisture content,” said Kris Kuype, project manager with Sierra Business Council. “We have our fingers crossed.”Since the hot-burning Martis fire made headlines more than 10 years ago by jumping Interstate 80 and scorching more than 13,000 acres of public and private land along the Truckee River, the landscape has struggled to rebound, local biologists said.The burned slopes are vulnerable to erosion, and native plants sprouting in the area are prone to competition from non-native, noxious weeds, according to a report by JBR Environmental Consultants. The report specifically noted musk thistle —a plant with a pinkish flower classified as invasive in areas across the entire United States — as the eminent threat to the burn area.Insects and animals that depend on local plant species do not return to areas where thistles have taken over, Kuype said.In addition to reseeding, field crews will use a variety of tactics — including the application of herbicides, hand-raking and mowing — to irradiate the invasive plants.In addition to improving water quality in the Truckee River watershed, the work provides part-time, seasonal employment for an eight-person crew.If all goes well, Kuype expects to see lasting results by next spring.“Some of the seeds in the mix are for perennial plants,” she said. “Next year at this time we hope to see more ground cover from the types of plants we dispersed this year.”The seed mixture which will be dropped by helicopter when weather conditions are right is a combination of four grasses (bluegrass, squirreltail, wild rye and wheatgrass), five flowering plants (penstemon, buckwheat, lupine, yarrow and arrowleaf balsamroot) and three shrubs (bitterbrush, sagebrush and mountain mahogany).The area to be reseeded is not visible from Interstate 80, as it is just over the crest of the hillside.

Jenell SchwabSierra Sun

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 18, 2012 10:45AM Published Apr 18, 2012 10:43AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.