Pioneer Fire Restoration Project

Project Area

The North Pioneer Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project (North Pioneer) and South Pioneer Fire Salvage and Reforestation Project (South Pioneer) were proposed in conjunction as both projects had a similar purpose and similar needs. The objective in separating the northern and southern portions of the fire area was to create a more straightforward environmental analysis based on differences related to ecological and management complexities. The North Pioneer project area is located immediately north and south of Lowman, Idaho, and 74 miles northeast of Boise, Idaho, in Boise County. The South Pioneer project area is located 18 miles northeast of Idaho City, Idaho, and 48 miles northeast of Boise, Idaho, in Idaho County. Both projects are located entirely on NFS lands.

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.

The PSC-led 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 EAs for the project.

An emergency situation determination (ESD) pursuant to 36 CFR 218.21 was granted by the Chief of the Forest Service for this project on May 31, 2017. Randall Hayman, now a member of the PSC team, was responsible for requesting the ESD.

Specific Tasks and Outcomes

Hazard Trees—The PSC team identified hazard trees and assessed treatment methods along 365 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails and 341 miles of Maintenance Level (ML) 2 and ML 3 roads. The team completed hazard tree field evaluation forms and a summary report identifying the extent of hazard trees along trail segments within 1.5 site tree heights from the trail or road prism. The summary report also included recommendations for removing hazard trees using salvage that considered access, logging systems needed, and potential economic revenue generated that could be used to support restoration efforts based on current timber appraisal systems.

Roads and TrailsThe team assessed 365 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails, including snowmobile routes; 62 miles of ML 2 and ML 3 roads; and 170 miles of ML 1 roads to determine their need for maintenance, realignment, reconstruction, or stabilization.

Post-fire Landscapes—The PSC team assessed fire impacts on forested vegetation on approximately 80,000 acres within the Pioneer Fire area. Assessments determined reforestation and revegetation needs, if treatments within remaining green forest patches were needed to reduce potential future loss from undesirable insect infestations and subsequent wildfire, and other biological or physical resource restoration rehabilitation needs.

Noxious Weeds—The PSC team maintained a log, including GPS locations, of noxious weed species and their extent in locations observed during all field reviews completed.

Range Allotments—The PSC team assessed impacts of fire severity on range allotments and identified areas requiring rest to recover before grazing would be allowed to occur. The PSC team was also contracted to assess impacts to range improvements within existing range allotments, including impacts to 30 miles of fence and 25 water developments and impacts from fallen trees to 5,000 acres of forage areas, salting grounds, and livestock travel corridors.

Abandoned Mines—The PSC team assessed 8 underground abandoned mine openings for botanical resources and the presence of bats. This information was used by the Forest Service to determine whether the site should be closed and the type of closure method to be used.

Communication and Public Outreach—The PSC team assisted the Forest in media outreach by drafting press releases, coordinating field trips with media, facilitating meetings with interested stakeholders, and coordinating public meetings.Environmental Assessments—The PSC team edited and formatted 2 scoping letters and attachments and completed the comment analysis for all scoping comments received on both the North Pioneer and South Pioneer projects. The PSC team also edited and formatted all Forest Service–provided technical reports; edited and formatted Forest Service–provided Chapters 1 and 2 for both EAs; and wrote Chapters 3 and 4, including the references section, for both EAs. PSC then completed the comment analysis for comments received on the draft EAs, incorporated changes to the EAs based on public comments, and finalized the technical reports and EAs. Finally, PSC edited and formatted the FONSI