Wildland Urban Interface Project Enhances Habitat and Reduces Risk

Camas National Wildlife Refuge - 2008

In January 2008, fire managers at Camas National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Idaho completed a project to reduce hazardous fuels adjacent to private residences and the refuge headquarters buildings. The project involved the removal of dead cottonwood trees and debris which would have given fire a direct path to the nearby structures. Large wind driven fires are typical for the area which lies in the upper Snake River plain.

A thriving population of songbirds lives in the cottonwood trees on the refuge. By eliminating the dead vegetation in the cottonwood grove, refuge managers were also able to enhance songbird habitat and protect it from being lost to fire.

The project started in the fall of 2007, when the refuge staff rented an excavator to pile the dead vegetation. The trees died primarily from continued drought and old age. The Snake River Interagency Hotshot Crew assisted the excavator by bucking the trees.  This helped the excavator to build more compact piles in order to get the fire to burn more completely when the piles were lit.  Nearly thirty large piles were constructed.

The hotshot crew also used the larger logs to make benches placing them on the nearby trail for visitors to the refuge to use as a resting spot during walks.

Early in 2008, while there was snow on the ground, firefighters from the refuge ignited the piles.  Over 45 tons of dead vegetation was eliminated as a result of this project.

The refuge provides critical habitat for a variety of migratory birds and songbirds. Several state record songbird observations have been made in cottonwood stands on the refuge. Tundra and trumpeter swans also visit the lakes, ponds, and marshlands which make up about half of the refuge.

Fire fighters igniting slash Firefighters make bench out of cottonwood logs.

RX Piles:  Firefighters ignite slash piles in the snow at Camas National Wildlife Refuge.

IHC makes bench:  Members of the Snake River Interagency Hotshot Crew craft benches out of cottonwood logs.


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