Recovery from this summer’s fires will be a long journey. The Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB) has been involved with a number of partners to find ways to effectively and responsibly mitigate from the devastation. The summer fires started near Mills Canyon in the Entiat River valley on July 8, 2014. By mid-July, a widespread lightning storm had started fires across the entirety of the region. All told, the fires burned over 360,000 acres on private, state and federal lands. Two specific actions the UCSRB has engaged in regarding the fires include: (a) hosting discussions about the effects of fire and fish and (b) working with the Regional Technical Team (RTT) to establish short-term priorities for mitigation in the most severely impacted watersheds following the fires and debris flows.
The RTT established a fish and fire subgroup of regional scientists to evaluate the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) reports, and other available information, to develop a prioritized list of burned areas in need of short-term actions that could mitigate the effects of the fire on important salmonid habitat, or help to restore lost habitat for salmonids. The recently released report, titled “Prioritization of Areas and Potential Action for Burned Areas with the Upper Columbia as a Result of the 2014 Fires”. The subgroup evaluated the severity of the burn in each sub-watershed, then determined the proximity of the more severe burn intensities to spawning or rearing of important salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. The report includes sub-watersheds that do not currently contain salmon or steelhead distribution, but may still affect important habitat downstream of these areas (e.g., by moving large amounts of sediment into spawning or rearing habitats). The report includes a matrix of the priority watersheds and potential recovery actions, as well as estimated costs. All of the identified priority actions are in the Methow and Okanogan subbasins.
One of the key messages in the report is that it is important to separate short- and long-term effects of fires on adjacent aquatic environments. Short-term impacts are usually direct and can negatively affect the biological and physical needs of fish, but long-term impacts (generally indirect) can change biota and the physical environment more positively for fish (Johnson and Molesworth 2014).
The report will be used by partners to continue to align limited fire recovery resources with priority actions. View the report:
Prioritization of Areas and Potential Action for Burned Areas with the Upper Columbia as a Result of the 2014 Fires
View pictures of the fire: