Helicopters took to the air Wednesday and Thursday over the site of the July Fire. Instead of fire suppression they were working to restore the burned landscape.
There’s snow on the ground in Phillips County but that was not going to stop the reseeding effort, said Bureau of Land Management Montana/Dakota botanist Wendy Velman, head of the botany and emergency stabilization and rehabilitation program.
The helicopters were dropping special wood straw and native seeds right above the town of Landusky.
“The wood mulch will reduce impact from raindrops onto the soil,” said Velman. “And it is also going to give coverage and stability to the soil that is going to be needed to keep it there so the germination of the seeds can get started.”
Velman and her team visited the fire site right after the fire was contained, and began evaluating the damage and what needed to be done to restore growth, like reseeding with native seeds, and what they can do to reduce runoff and prevent erosion.
“We identified some areas above a watershed, of a few cabins that we decided to put in some water barring, which is where we go in and make kind of like a speed bump in the road, Velman said. “But on the uphill side of that speed bump we put in a little bit of a ditch or a canal to make sure that water flowing down that roadway diverts back to the stream, and so it’s not going to go straight down that roadway down into someone’s driveway or into their property.”
Nearby the Montana Conservation Corps already had installed 77 man-made cylinders of compressed weed-free straw. These wattles, nearly 100 ft. long and staked into the ground, are another barrier to water running down a slope.
Not all 18 square miles of the land burned by the July Fire suffered total devastation. Velman’s crew found some regrowth, including in growths of alders and birch.