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Pioneer Fire Restoration Project

Boise National Forest

August 2016 – March 2018

– Project Description

The Pioneer Fire began on July 18, 2016, approximately 8.0 miles north of Idaho City on the Forest’s Idaho City Ranger District. Naturally dry conditions were exacerbated by a lack of late-summer monsoonal moisture. Hot temperatures and strong winds fueled the fire’s growth to more than 64,000 acres by August 9, 2016. By September 15, 2016, the fire had grown to over 190,000 acres.

The Pioneer Fire burned with varying severity and left a mosaic of burn patterns, ranging from unburned islands to areas where tree crowns were completely consumed, on the landscape.

Image of forest trees on fire

Project Summary

The Peak Sci team performed the tasks necessary for data collection and analyses needed to develop proposed actions that addressed post-fire public health and safety issues, resource protection, and restoration within the Pioneer Fire area. Reports prepared by the team were incorporated completely or in part or referenced into subsequent NEPA documents and planning files. The team was also responsible for writing two environmental assessments (EAs) for the project: the North Pioneer Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project EA and the South Pioneer Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project EA.

Tasks

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Identifying hazard trees and assessing treatment methods along 365 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails and 341 miles of roads

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Assessing 365 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails and 62 miles of roads to determine needs for maintenance, realignment, reconstruction, or stabilization

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Assessing fire impacts on forested vegetation on 80,000 acres

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Logging noxious and invasive weed species and their extent during all field reviews

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Assessing impacts of fire severity on range allotments

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Assessing eight underground abandoned mine openings for botanical resources and the presence of bats

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Assisting with media outreach by drafting press releases, coordinating field trips with media, facilitating meetings with interested stakeholders, and coordinating public meetings

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Completing comment analysis for scoping comments and writing two environmental asseessments

Final Outcome

In 2016, when the Pioneer Fire raged, it was the first mega-fire (fire larger than 100,000 acres) on the Boise National Forest. Today, mega-fires are the norm. And, in 2020, California experienced the first giga-fire (fire larger an 1 million acres). As climate change continues to increase global temperatures, we will continue to see warmer, drier conditions; increased drought; and a longer fire season. For must of the western US, every 1 degree Celsius increase results in as much as a 600 percent increase in median burned areas per year.