Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests continues response to 2015 fires

Personnel on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, regulatory agencies, and partners, continue to work together to provide visitors with safe access and restore the land and infrastructure affected by the 2015 fires.

Continued activities include Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER), working with partners to address needs on non-forest system lands, hazard tree removal along roads, administrative and recreation sites, and salvage of dead and dying trees.

In the summer of 2015, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests had over 250 fires. Over 25 of those fires were large incidents and total acres burned was in excess of 192,000.

Forest personnel addressed the needs of each fire independently, and continue to address post-fire and landscape needs with the same rationale. 

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams arrived on forest and began to assess emergency needs within fire perimeters as the fires were still burning. The result of this critical work was a request and the receipt of $1.1 million to do emergency repair work caused by the fires. 

The BAER assessments do not include long-term restoration needs on the landscape. The BAER recommendations are time-sensitive and forest personnel have been working on these projects since the fall of 2015 and continue to implement emergency repair work.

Potential threats to visitors and agency personnel include flooding and debris flows, hazard trees, and rock fall along trails and at trailheads, developed recreation sites, and dispersed areas that are within, downstream or downslope of burned areas.

The projects include culvert replacements, emergency hazard tree removal at campgrounds and other areas, and invasive plant control. Implementation of this work may cause short-term closures in campgrounds and along roads and trails, but will ultimately provide forest visitors long-term access. 

Forest personnel are active members of the North Central Idaho Wildfire Restoration Group (NCIWRG), previously called the North Idaho Wildfire Response Group.

The group was formed as the smoke began to clear and multiple agencies recognized the need to come together collectively and address the landscape affected by fire in an “all lands” approach. Work continues as agencies compile information on post-fire restoration needs in the five-county area. 

In May, the group hosted a workshop for the public entitled, “Life After the Fires: Living for Today, Planning for Tomorrow.” Information on creating fire-wise communities, post-fire restoration needs and opportunities identified by NCIWRG’s Technical Committee, and a presentation by Dr. Penny Morgan from the University of Idaho on Past, Present, and Future Fires was provided to private landowners in attendance. 

In addition to the active participation of forest personnel, the forest helped sponsor the event.

Throughout the late fall of 2015 and into the Spring of 2016, the forest has proposed and sought public comment on a variety of projects which include addressing hazard tree removal along certain roads, administrative sites, recreation sites, salvage of burned trees, and removal of dead and dying trees affected by insects, disease, fire, or a combination of conditions. 

Forest personnel continue to evaluate and modify our projects as necessary with respect to public comments, additional data collection, and new analyses.

The Roadside, Administrative, and Recreation Site Maintenance hazard tree removal, Woodrat, and Upper Lolo draft Environmental Assessments (EA) have been available on the forest website at http://prdp2fs.ess.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/projects/nezperceclearwater/landmanagement/projects?sortby=0&archive=0 for public review and comment since May 7, 2016. To date, general comments from two entities have been received. Below is a summary of proposed projects and their current status:

In response to public comments received, the Lost Hat/Snowy Summit decision has been rescinded and we will be incorporating this project, along with portions of the Roadside, Administrative, and Recreation Site Maintenance hazard tree removal project that are not immediate safety and infrastructure hazards, into the proposed Upper Lolo Environmental Assessment project.

The Upper Lolo project encompasses a cluster of fires that burned in the tributaries to Lolo Creek, east of Pierce and Weippe. The previously submitted Emergency Situation Determination request for the Upper Lolo project will be withdrawn and the proposed action will be published in our paper of record, the Lewiston Morning Tribune, and a 30-day notice and public comment will soon be available. 

Some public comments on the Chair Point, Van Keating, and Big Hill salvage projects indicated a high degree of concern. Reduced viability during layout, rapid deterioration of the wood product, and public concern from some organizations has led to the decision to drop these salvage projects.

The Deadwood project encompasses part of the Deadwood fire perimeter and is located on the Red River Ranger District, near Elk City and Orogrande. This project is sanitation and salvage and includes removal of dead and dying trees affected by insects, disease and/or fire. Forest employees are finalizing the analysis and a decision will be forthcoming on this project.

The Boulder area salvage project is on the Powell Ranger District, near Lolo Pass, and consists of harvesting 59 acres of dead and dying burned trees. Finalization of the analysis and a decision memo has been signed.

The Woodrat area salvage project includes harvest of fire-killed trees on a portion of the Woodrat fire which burned acres on the Lochsa Ranger District, lands administered by Idaho Department of Lands, and private lands near the communities of Syringa and Lowell.

The proposed decision is being refined due to changes on the ground and to take into account the visual impacts from within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor. An Emergency Situation Determination has been requested for this project.

Forest personnel continue to work closely with the regulator agencies on the Endangered Species Act compliance for both the Woodrat and Upper Lolo projects. This process has been completed for all other projects.

The proposed decision for the Roadside, Administrative, and Recreation Site Maintenance hazard tree removal project is being refined to address concerns from the public. The modifications include restricting activity on administratively closed roads to felling dead trees and fuels abatement, only; restricting equipment to the road surface adjacent to Inventoried Roadless Areas; and implementing project design features in areas visible from the Wild and Scenic River Corridor.

The Emergency Situation Determination request submitted for the Roadside, Administrative, and Recreation Site Maintenance hazard tree removal project has been approved by the Chief of the Forest Service.

Response to public concern, as well as resource conditions discovered during project layout, has reduced the scope and scale of the project and prompted changes in the proposed decision.

Forest personnel across all disciplines are working together to address the needs on lands administered by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and are participating members of the NCIWRG. Public input is a valued part of this process, as forest personnel work to provide safe access and restore the land.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Date change on work to improve a portion of Idaho 11, Jaype to Headquarters

The deep-pavement rehabilitation of a portion of Idaho 11, from the junction of Grangemont Road, near Jaype, to Headquarters is slated to begin Tuesday, June 21.

Travelers can expect road work and intermittent delays from milepost 35 to milepost 42. The highway is in relatively poor condition and has multiple soft spots needing repair.

Work to be performed consists of a cold-in-place recycle, double seal-coat pavement rehabilitation, road widening at milepost 41.66, installing new signs and guardrail, and repairing soft spots in this 7.2-mile stretch. 

When complete, the rehabilitation work should extend the life of the roadway by up to 20 years. The road was originally an unpaved dirt road in 1955 and received several seal coats during its life, followed by numerous blade patches. 

The contractor is planning to work 10-12 hours every weekday. Work will begin at 7 a.m. each day.

A one-lane closure should be expected during the construction process. Flaggers and pilot cars will guide traffic through the work zones. 

The soft-spot repair, overlay and sign replacement are expected to be complete by Aug. 2. 

Knife River Corporation is the prime contractor on the project. The cost of the project is $1.4 million.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fourth graders tell their fire stories, learn about renewable forests

Fourth grade students ran with a parachute and squirted an engine hose as they enjoyed a day in the Forest May 31, experiencing how forest lands recover after wildland fire.

Forest visits were organized by Courtney Couch, Forest Service Fire Education and Prevention Specialist. Each day-long field trip took place at Spring Bar, O’Hara Creek and Musselshell Creek, three fire affected areas on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.

Students were divided into groups and heard seven different presentations on wildland fire. Presentations included wildland engine operations, helicopter operations, what it means to be a smokejumper, the science behind prescribed burning, the ecological benefits of fire, and making a ‘firewise’ home.

Students also took an emotional healing walk while observing forest regeneration in a burned area. 

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests were one of 186 federal recipients selected to receive an Every Kid in the Park (EKIP) grant. These grants provided funding for transportation to get children outside, exploring their public lands.

The grant covered the cost of busing fourth grade students from Nezperce, Grangeville, Kooskia, Kamiah, Weippe, Pierce, Riggins and Orofino, to sites on the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests.

In addition, the Forest Service visited classrooms before and after the field trip to give students an opportunity to discuss their experiences surrounding the 2015 fire season.

This effort was led Matti Sand, a U.S. Forest Service Fire Lookout. Matti provided a safe and understanding atmosphere where students could talk about how the fires affected their lives and families.

Following the field trips, students used poetry to express what they learned and their wildfire experiences last summer. See the end of this article to read student poems.

For the poetry writing, children were encouraged to be creative and were not bound by rules of spelling or punctuation. At the suggestion of the Friends of the Kooskia Community Library and through support of other local libraries, these student poems will be on exhibit this summer. The Forest Service will be providing a bound copy of poems, organized by school groups, to community libraries. 

The grant, Healing the Land, Healing Ourselves: Exploring the Ecological and Psychological Influences of Fire in Our Communities around the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests received writing assistance and fiscal sponsorship from the Clearwater Resource Conservation and Development council. 

Information on emotional healing was provided by the Willow Center. The Idaho Department of Lands provided presentations on ‘firewise’ homes. The Clearwater Potlatch Fire Protective Association assisted with wildland engine operations for the Orofino and Timberline field trip. 

The Nez Perce Tribe provided presentations on forest regeneration during an emotional healing walk. 

This project was made possible by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of Disney and individual donors from across the country.

The U.S. Forest Service is one of seven federal land management agencies that comprise Every Kid in a Park, a Presidential initiative to give every fourth grader the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and our unique history.

The President called upon seven agencies, including the Forest Service, to “help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters.”

In addition to the Forest Service, the other agencies that are part of Every Kid in a Park are the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Park Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

For more information, contact Courtney Couch at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests: (208) 926-4274.

Timberline Elementary

The Great Fires of 2015 by Levi
Fire
Powerful, warm
Burning, growing, dying
Burning up trees; putting out fires
Moving, flowing, evaporating
Cold, deep
Water

When the Fires Came by Hailey
In the forest a tree
Here’s a fire crackling and
Screaming with rage,
The tree tries to run
But he can’t by now
He hates his roots…
Soon the fire emerges
In front of him
With the wood peckers
Yelling burn burn 

The fire, started to burn him 
Soon the fire past
He was alive
The tree was so glad 
He burst with tears of joy.
Fire the Destroyer
Warm soon turns to its wild side
The red flames set to burn all
In its path soon could with evil spirit
It’s out after a week and a half the elements still hold embers 
It start again

Fire and Ice – by Jayme
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire some say in ice 
from what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
But if it had to perish twice
I think I know enough of hate to say
that for destruction ice is also great

Poems of FIRE by Exzavier
Fire
Fire is dangerous
It fills water of ash
Rashes from the heat
Embers and sparks burn

Run Trees by Destiny
I am red
I have flames
I burn things
There is smoke where I go?
What am I?
Fire
The animals die because of me
The trees burn because of me
What am I?
Fire
The trees burn from this thing
What is it?
I help recycle the Earth
My ash goes to the soil
What am I?

Fire Poetry by Sam
Fire burning when it’s hot, 
Flames flying with the wind,
Fire getting higher and higher,
Burning the canyon,
Scorching the woods,
And blazing the houses and fields.
That is my poem
The first flame, the first spark
Going higher and higher
The first black dust
Trying to catch the wind.
That is my poem.
Fire…glowing red and orange in the night,
Wanting to burn,
Wanting to glow so bright. 

Birthday Fire by Ethan
Sitting at the campfire watching flames go up
And up at my brother’s birthday
Stacking more wood and more
On the fire telling scary stories.
While absorbing more heat from the fire. 

The Poem of Fire by Kyd
1910
Fire…makes me remember the fire of 1910.
A lot of families died right then.
They could see the pyro catching up to them.
There in the woods was a sea of flames.
And that was the fire of 1910.

Orofino Elementary

Summer Flames by Stevie
Idaho Fires 2015
Summer flames above the mountains
Below the clouds
May it stop?
Should we sob?
What should we do?
Can we stop the trees from new
Hideous hairdos?
Most importantly
Can we prevent wildfires?
Help Smokey Out Kids
Don’t play with matches!

Fire Poem by Seger
Fire crackle sizzle
Frightening burning
Birds fly low
The smokes gets lower

When the smoke fly’s out
The animals pop out
The trees regrow
The bugs come out

Thank you to ALL the 
Firefighters for putting out the fire. 

Fire! Smoke! By Kelly
I don’t really like it
It is horrible
It smells horrible
It is fire!!

The smoke was thick
My dad was working
I was scared!!!

I went outside 
It smelled like smoke
Mixed with pine tree
It stunk bad.

Everyday my dad was out
Telling people to leave their home
I felt sad and scared.

It was one of the worst weeks
Of my life
But when it was over
It was one of the best days
Of my life.

2015 Fires by Mylie
The fire is burning so hot 
The heat is absorbing into my body.
The yellow and blue flames
The red coals glowing
And the smell of burning wood. 

Fire Tips by Cheyanne
1. Make sure your address is posted clearly so people can see it.
2. When there is a fire get wood and dry stuff away from your house.
3. Make sure tree branches are not on your house because when the fire comes it won’t burn the top of your house.
4. Clean your chimney because if you have straw or dry stuff in your chimney it could burn the straw and it could fall in your house and burn the whole inside of your house. 
Thank you J

Wild Fire!!! By Briley
We were sitting
Not aware of anything
Papa comes in telling us
To come out!!!

I stood on a stump 
looking at the site of the fire
Eating the house.
Across the canyon.

My gramma called 911
And the friends
Asking if they were OK.
They were just fine.

WILD FIRE by Bodey
Fire you make me quake and shake
Your heat makes my heart beat fast
And can’t control it. 
You fire sound like gunfire
You make firefighters fight.

Fire by Patrick
Fire is bad for lungs
Bad for wood in forests
Good for smores
Roasting hot dogs

Fire Poetry by Loudan
Fire fire everywhere.
Helicopters in the air.
We need water everywhere
To put that fire out so fast
We need water really fast.
Ashes in the air.
Flames in the trees.
Smoke everywhere

Propane tank on fire.
Yelling in the house.
A hose turning on.

My experience to Fire’s in 2015 by Dayna
Big fires smoke in the air 
Tears coming from my eyes 
Hot in the air
Sun hiding
Me sweating
Me sad
Watching houses burn down
Sad faces come all over
Birds flying low
Places on fire
Fire fighters working long days
Some water getting poured.
Sad people
Houses on fire
Scary sounds
Me crying
Sorry faces.
Outside fire fighters
Working hard
And risking lives.

The Fire of 2015 by Linda
Smoke flying in the morning
Can’t breath from smoke in the air.
Smoke going here 
Smoke going there
Smoke going everywhere
Fire is on the green burning
From all the lightning
Heading to the next place to attack. 
Quick! We need a evacuation 
Fire is going in my calculations.
Fires all done in all places
Time to get back to 
Summer vacation

Fire by Donya
Mom, Dad, the dogs and I drove through Lenore 
and got to somewhere safe
Then the fire was over 
We were safe
Back home with the dogs.
We’re glad to be home and so we’re the dogs
The end!

Fire of 2015 by Lexie
Fire, fire 
your cool to admire
but not when you spread
more and more 
fire.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests gear up for 2016 fire season

Preparation for the 2016 fire season on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests began in the late fall with an After Action Review of the 2015 fire season.

Shortly after the first of the year, fire staff begin preparations by meeting with personnel to discuss resource needs, additional equipment, staffing levels, and new tools available. Forest Service firefighters are highly trained and complete all required courses before fire season begins.

A variety of forest personnel participate in incident management teams in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area. Incident team members met in March to discuss the seasonal outlook, safety, public information, logistics, operations, plan, and aviation.

Fire positions on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are fully staffed this year. Fifty-one people have been hired in leadership positions, many of these folks have been on forest but have been promoted. There are currently a total of 238 fire personnel on board, and 197 of that total are primary firefighters.

Interagency Fire Guard School was June 6-10 at Camp Lutherhaven in Coeur d’ Alene. There, 180 rookies learned everything from fire behavior, size-up to initial attack, Standards of Survival, hand line construction, mop up principles, to wilderness fire suppression, and more.

Line Officers: All District Ranger positions are currently filled on both Forests. Line Officer qualification standards are met. Contingency plans are in place to insure fully qualified Line Officers managing all wildland fire, wildland fire use, and prescribed fire operations. 

Fire Leadership: Deputy Forest Supervisor Ralph Rau is leaving the forests in mid-June to fill the Fire and Aviation Director position at the Regional Office in Missoula.

Rau’s support in his new position will be invaluable to the forests. Bob Lippincott is the Fire Staff Officer and Kevin Chaffee is the new Deputy Fire Staff Officer.

Dispatch Program: The Grangeville Interagency Dispatch Center workforce is fully staffed. Idaho Department of Lands will be a primary partner, with additional support contributed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protection Association (CPTPA), and the Nez Perce Tribe.

Aviation Leadership: All aviation positions are currently filled.

Aviation Resources: Fixed-wing operations shut down at the Idaho County Airport June 3. Seventy-five working days is set for the project, which will last tentatively into October, during which fixed-wing aircraft will not be able to use the county facility; however, helicopter traffic will be able to continue.

For the duration, fixed-wing Forest Service firefighting aircraft—including smokejumper and SEATs (single engine air tanker)—will be dispersed between the Cottonwood and Lewiston airports.

There will be two SEATS and a Retardant Base at the Lewiston Airport. Grangeville Air Center currently has 29 smoke jumpers but will continuously staff a load at the Cottonwood Airport for initial attack during airport construction.

One helicopter will be based at Musselshell Work Center near Pierce (with 10 people) and one helicopter based at Grangeville Air Center (with 10 people). 

Additional Aviation Resources: Neighbors on the Payette NF, Wallowa-Whitman NF and IDL will have all of their aircraft in place and available under the Snake-Salmon Local Operating Plan. The zone will also continue to support the Umatilla NF under a standing agreement.

Current Conditions: As of June 1, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have had approximately eight prescribed fires at a total of 320 acres, and two wildfires for a total of 0.2 acres. Prescribed burning is being accomplished on several districts with no issue. 

Expected Conditions: According to the National Interagency Fire Center Predictive Services, normal significant wildland fire potential is expected for the Northern Rockies Geographic Area for the outlook period of June, July, and August through September, 2016.

May featured a very warm start to the month. However, with the onset of the wet pattern temperatures during the latter third of the month fell to well below normal.

Springs rains across the region were above normal for most areas. High elevation locations along the Divide picked up one to three feet of additional snow fall during the last week of May. 

Historically transitions out of El NiƱo conditions in late spring-early summer tend to be wetter-than-normal. Current trends and the latest models indicate above normal precipitation will continue for early summer.

Longer range data for the second half of the summer, mid-July to early September, shows near average precipitation expected.

There is general agreement that temperatures should be average to slightly above average over the next four months. 

A robust green-up is currently occurring across the Northern Rockies. Fuels in most locations are now much wetter than average. An extended green-up period is likely.

As a result, there is a chance that some areas across the western half of the region could see below normal significant fire potential this season.

That said, a normal start to the fire season is expected. The development of large fires may be delayed due to the longer time that it will take for fuels to become critically dry.

Two new tools for the public

“Wildfires Near Me” at: www.wildfiresnearme.wfmrda.com is a full-featured web app that brings information to the users when they need it.

The app can notify users when a fire is within a certain distance of the places they care about as well as notify them about specific fires when they change is size and complexity. 

Notifications can be sent to the user’s email or mobile phone via text and they can determine the type and frequency of the messages they receive. 

Regarding the Enterprise Geospatial Portal (EGP): The public side is accessed by anyone and without a password by navigating to https://maps.nwcg.gov or clicking the “Wildfire Maps” button in the National Fire Situational Awareness box.

It’s a great tool for the public to use to find incident information and incidents near them and holds a limited amount of incident information including location, size, latest perimeter map, containment, and hot spots (MODIS).

It also has a link to the daily Incident Management Situation Report (Sit report).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Unlicensed solicitors in Lewiston area

Recently the Lewiston Police Department has received an increased number of complaints of unwanted solicitors canvassing neighborhoods. These solicitors are selling various items or services ranging from satellite TV, books and magazines, cleaning equipment and consumable goods.

Most of the complaints are the result of high pressure sales tactics and refusal to leave when asked to by the home owner. Traditionally the police department does experience an increase in complaints about door to door salesmen in the spring when the weather begins to improve.

Under Lewiston City Code all solicitors are required to obtain a solicitor's license from the city prior to engaging in door to door sales. This process requires a limited records check and fingerprints to ensure the protection of the public. Individuals soliciting for charitable causes are also required to obtain a permit from the city.

Citizens are encouraged to be especially wary of anyone on foot and not associated with a properly marked vehicle representing their company. Be extremely cautious about letting solicitors enter your home.

The Lewiston Police Department urges citizens to contact police about suspicious persons going door to door, and to ask to see their city issued solicitor's license before engaging in a business transaction.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Report on U.S. Forest Service preparations for 2016 wildfire season and unfavorable wildfire trends

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on May 17 met with Regional Foresters representing areas expected to be at greatest risk during the 2016 wildfire season to discuss their preparations to fight fires across the United States.

Last year, seven members of the Forest Service firefighting team were lost in the line of duty, and 4,500 homes were damaged or destroyed. The job of fighting wildfires has become increasingly difficult due to the effects of climate change, chronic droughts, and a constrained budget environment in Washington.

At least 58 million acres of National Forest System lands are in or near the Wildland Urban Interface and work now can reduce risk to life, homes, businesses and infrastructure. On the call, Chief Tidwell will underscore the Forest Service’s commitment to ensuring the protection of firefighters’ lives.

Climate change has led to fire seasons that are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970, and the average number of acres burned each year has doubled since 1980.

As a result, the Forest Service's firefighting budget is regularly exhausted before the end of the wildfire season, forcing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to abandon critical restoration and capital improvement projects in order to suppress extreme fires.

Over half of the Forest Service’s 2015 budget was used to fight wildfires, compared to just 16 percent in 1995.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Orofino LoggerXross May 13-14


Two nights of racing and entertainment are set for the 2016 Orofino LoggerXross, held Friday and Saturday, May 13-14, at the Orofino City Park lumberjack arena.

Sign-ups for Friday are 3 to 5:30 p.m., and the riders meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Friday’s opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. Friday’s practice is at 6:15 p.m.

Saturday’s sign-ups are 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with a rider’s meeting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday practice is at 12 noon. Amateur qualifiers are at 2 p.m. Saturday, and opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m.

Classes include: 65cc, 85cc, women’s, beginners, lightweight, heavyweight, trials, vet, and expert, plus pro women and pro men. The purse for pro men is $10,000, and $2,000 for pro women.

First, second, and third place trophies will be awarded both days. Race fees per day are $35 amateur and $50 pro. For spectators, gate fees are $15 for a wristband, with free admission for children ages five and under.

A new PA system will be in use at this year’s races. Scott Heaton from the Monster Jam Racing series will once again be this year’s announcer. Singing the National Anthem Friday night will be Savanna Simmons. Joan Bonnalie will sing it Saturday.
An amazing line-up of talented riders are expected to race, and there will also be food vendors, Orofino Chamber of Commerce’s beer garden, and motorsports vendors from all over the area.

Race sponsors include: Idaho Forest Group, Fly Racing, Western Power Sports, Inc., Kenda, and Works Connection.

For more information, call Jim Engle at 208-816-6253, or check out Orofino LoggerXross on Facebook.

Pictured: Sean Simmons of Orofino racing in the 2015 LoggerXross. Photo by Tabby Haskett