Land continues to heal 5 years after destructive wildfire
Jul. 15, 2018
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Scorched dead trees still mark the path five years later of one of the largest wildfires ever to strike Nevada wilderness.
But recently new life in the form of green patches of bushes and shrubs now color much of the nearly 30 square miles (78 square kilometers) of Spring Mountains National Recreation Area that remain closed as the landscape slowly heals, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .
U.S. Forest Service soil scientist Jim Hurja said the he is seeing signs of recovery, as many native plants are sprouting.
"I even see sagebrush coming back, which is good to see," Hurja said.
Ignited on July 1, 2013, the blaze burned for more than a month. By the time the fire was contained, it had churned through several different ecosystems. It scorched 27,800 acres (11,250 hectares) on Mount Charleston.
Some of the worst damage occurred in and around Harris Springs Canyon. Nearly 95 percent of the watershed burned in the lightning-sparked blaze, which also claimed several structures on two parcels of private land in the canyon, Hurja said.
"All the good top soil ended up in the yards (of houses) in North Las Vegas," said Donn Christiansen, who manages Spring Mountains National Recreation Area for the Forest Service.
The service and the Bureau of Land Management responded by closing almost 30 square miles (77.7 square kilometers) of public land, including all of Harris Springs Canyon and the dirt roads leading into it.
The current, five-year closure order is set to expire at the end of January, but Christiansen expects it to be extended at least into 2020.
The landscape is still in a fragile and dangerous state, with increased risks of flash flooding and hundreds of dead trees just waiting to topple over, he said.
The Forest Service plans to eventually replant a portion of the burned area with pinyon trees now being grown at the agency's nursery in Idaho from seeds gathered in the Spring Mountains, Hurja said.
As far as he knows, this will mark the first time anyone has tried planting pinyon trees after a fire in the range.
"Maybe in 10 or 20 years we'll start to see trees resprouting," Hurja said. "It's going to take some time."
Anyone who wants to help with the ongoing recovery efforts can join one of the volunteer projects organized throughout the year by groups such as Friends of Nevada Wilderness, the Southern Nevada Conservancy and the Great Basin Institute, Christiansen said.
The burned area will recover faster if people observe closure signs, stick to designated roads and trails and wash their cars, clothes and shoes before venturing up the mountain to prevent the spread of invasive weeds and grasses, Christiansen said.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com