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Fire south of Twin Falls gives Sawtooth National Forest head start on rejuvenating the landscape

The sun shines through trees in a stand that has been lightly burned by a wildfire.
Sawtooth National Forest

When lightning struck in the Minidoka Ranger District of Sawtooth National Forest late last month, it gave forest managers a head start on rejuvenating the landscape.

Shortly after the strike that ignited the Black Mountain Fire, forest managers decided to let it burn instead of putting it out.

That’s because it’s within an area that was already scheduled for a prescribed burn later in the fall. The goal of the planned prescribed burn and now the Black Mountain Fire, is to prevent much larger fires and to improve elk, moose and mule deer habitat.

“Fire improves wildlife habitat for those big game species by removing some of that older decadent vegetation,” said Scott Soletti, a wildlife biologist in the Minidoka Ranger District. “What grows back is much more palatable. It's higher in total digestible nutrients.”

There are no records of fire in this particular spot, and from looking at the vegetation, Soletti said it probably hasn’t seen flames in a century.

The Black Mountain Fire is burning on about 1,200 acres of old lodgepole pine stands and mountainside shrubs, though waves of precipitation since it started have kept the heat confined mostly to the timber.

128 people were working the fire Thursday, some near Magic Mountain Ski Resort, to keep it within specific boundaries.

“It's burned primarily in low to moderate severity,” Soletti said. “We have a mosaic on the landscape, which is what we're looking for.”

He said it’ll most likely take a heavy October rain or snowfall to put out the Black Mountain Fire. A few prescribed burns are still planned for this fall.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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