State Program Tasked With Reseeding Burn Scars, Reducing Chance Of Flooding

Apr 15, 2021, 5:59 PM | Updated: Apr 16, 2021, 5:39 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Bulldozers have been ripping up burned trees in Millard County and other parts of the state, preparing the land to reseed vegetation destroyed by wildfire. The effort was meant to save homes and communities from flooding.

The director of Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) Program said Utah firefighters don’t get much of a break.

“It is a nonstop job. They say that about firefighting, but the rehab efforts have become nonstop as well,” Tyler Thompson said.

The rehab efforts in Millard County, where the Canal Fire burned over 78,000 acres in June 2020, were just one of many in the state.

After that wildfire was put out, as well as hundreds of others across the state, for the WRI, that was when their work began.

“Once those big fires are out, the army goes home or they go on to the next fire,” said Thompson. “We have to come in and assess what kind of damage is there and begin the process of reseeding it.”

Thompson said his team fixes the land wildfires burn.

“I think the best analogy I often use, is… how do you plant your garden? You just don’t go throw seed on the ground and hope for the best,” he said.

Old or dead vegetation must first be removed, and then burned soil has to be churned for the seed to take hold.

That’s what the Canal Fire operation was doing with heavy chains attached to bulldozers as the machines dragged it across the burned ground.

Reseeding the land not only removes non-native plants, it’s also a long-term solution to prevent floods and mud debris flows that often happen after a wildfire.

“What we’re trying to do is stabilize that soil,” said Thompson. “As the roots grow, it will help to continue to stabilize the soil and you’ll see less and less coming off the mountain.”

Not every burn scar is reseeded, he said.

In 2020, about 330,000 acres burned in Utah. The WRI program reseeded about 100,000 of those acres.

Crews were still working on scars from 2020 as fires start to burn this year.

As the number of wildfires in Utah continue to increase, the rehab efforts will only grow, too.

“I believe it’s important,” said Thompson. “I think this state has an ethos where we believe in actively managing our lands. That’s what we do at WRI.”

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State Program Tasked With Reseeding Burn Scars, Reducing Chance Of Flooding