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Seed Warehouse Helping DWR Restore Wildfire Burn Scars

EPHRAIM, Utah – Wildfires this fall have left hundreds of mountainside acres barren and wildlife officials said they will use hundreds of thousands of pounds of seeds to rehabilitate burn scars and reduce the risk of flash flooding.

It may look like a giant big box store, but the Great Basin Research Center and Seed Warehouse is a one-of-a-kind facility in Ephraim, Utah.

More than one million pounds of seed are stored and mixed at the center each fall. Those seeds will be used to not only restore burn scars from wildland fires in the state, but to also improve wildlife habitats.

“A total of about a million pounds that we will be handling in one way or another this fall,” said Kevin Gunnell, habitat restoration coordination with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The DWR operates the facility and officials said their primary focus is on providing improved habitat for wildlife in Utah by eliminating species of grasses that are not beneficial to the ecosystem and replacing them with shrubs that are nourishing.

We target about 100,000 acres every year for that proactive restoration work aside from just the fires, Gunnell said. 

Wildland fires are also a critical part of the operation. Crews work to rehabilitate burn scars with native seeds that will quickly establish and reduce erosion and the threat of flash flooding.

“We are in the current process of trying to acquire seeds for some of the more recent fires we’ve had,” Gunnell said. “We certainly had a later fire season this year, some later burns in late August and September that made it difficult (and) we’re trying to adjust on the fly for those.”

Those fires have been keeping employees at the center busy. Officials said they will spread seeds on the many burn scars before winter arrives, so vegetation can sprout in the spring.

“We have about 150 different types of seed that we deal with, Gunnell said. “Most of our native shrubs and native forbs are provided through wildland collection.