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State, federal and private agencies begin work to restore Tamarack Fire damage

Huey helicopter readies for restoration efforts in the Tamarack burn scar. (KRNV)
Huey helicopter readies for restoration efforts in the Tamarack burn scar. (KRNV)
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The Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) took to the sky Friday to replace what the Tamarack Fire took so much of last summer: acres and acres of vegetation.

Officials with NDF and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) telling the News 4-Fox 11 Team on Friday that it is important the right plants take advantage of the scorched land.

In total, NDF said 68,000 acres were burned during the wildfire's run and on Friday an NDF helicopter would spread seeds of various plants around 8,000 acres of burned land on the Nevada side of the fire -- right next to Highway 395.

The process all starts with a shipping chain -- a big one too at around 100 feet long and around 14,000 pounds heavy. The chain is pulled through soil and trees by a couple of tractors.

The chain levels the dead trees, mixes nutrients and seed into the soil and then, once collective funding of around $850,000 is set up for the project, it was time for lift off.

NDF has Huey helicopter that they use to hoist a large bucket of seed into the area that they can remotely control from the cabin.

Mark Freese, a Wildlife Staff Specialist with NDOW, said on Friday:

We chose these areas based on numerous factors, wildlife habitat values. We got mule deer collar data through this area and so we targeted those.

Freese said another factor is starting out on the right foot with the burned area.

"With the Tamarack Fire, we have a real opportunity to do some good. If we don't do anything good it can be really bad and we can end up with a lot of cheat grass on site. But it could be really good if we have good success with the seeding. It is certainly going to provide much greater wildlife habitat values, " said Freese.

Cheatgrass, from a fuel and fire spread standpoint, sucks. According to Freese, its root system is expansive and can make it difficult for healthier native plants to thrive. Additionally, instead of being alive and well come summer time, cheatgrass dies and leaves an easy fuel load for a wildfire to crawl along -- destroying native plants and starting the cycle over and over until cheatgrass is the main fauna.

This is why NDOW and other agencies are stepping in, said Freese, because its an opportunity to get the right plants in place ahead of the cheatgrass.

NDF said before the Tamarack Fire there was a dense population of juniper trees, more than what's natural, leading to an intense fire.

With this project a helicopter can widely spread a mix of native and non-native plants that benefit wildlife migration, grazing and erosion control -- as well as limiting a fire's spread across a highway.

Forest Health Specialist with NDF, Anna Higgins, said:

If we don't re-seed it sometimes it just turns into a cheatgrass dominated site and so historically pinion juniper woodlands they burned every 50 to 300 years and a cheatgrass dominate site can burn every 2 to 3 years. So we really don't want these frequent fires especially around these homes.

Around 65,000 pounds of seeds and a lot collaboration between both state , federal, and private agencies is what Freese said made this all possible and more efforts are on the way

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Seeding is still going to be continuing in different areas, planting is going to start happening as well. Officials plan on checking back in this area over the next few years, but by five years they hope to see a healthy rangeland free from cheatgrass.

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