Thanks to a wet winter that stretched deep into spring, Carson City hillsides scarred by a nearly 8,800-acre wildfire last summer are regenerating nicely, land managers say.
"It's looking great. We had a good precipitation year and that really helped," said Nevada Division of Forestry Forest Health Specialist Gail Durham.
"This (rehabilitation effort) did better than most."
Durham usually gives a burn area three years to see if a rehab is working, but the signs were clear in Carson City after just a few months thanks to the precipitation that University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly called "a gift for Northern Nevada."
A combination of local, federal and state agencies reseeded more than 4,700 acres by plane and by ground last fall and winter, placed logs and cylinders made of straw on slopes to stem erosion, and dug holes and leveled land to catch sliding debris - all in an attempt to minimize the damage and speed the healing. Volunteers also pitched in, planting some grass and 1,000 pine trees in a couple hard-hit areas.
Much of the seed spread over the blackened land was just a temporary fix; a fast-growing but sterile grass that won't last into the fall and won't come back next spring.
Its purpose is to merely grow roots that hold the soil together, keep the ground occupied so noxious weeds don't move in, and give the seeds of slower-growing native plants a good environment in which to germinate.
Along with signs of life on reseeded land, officials are pleased to see natural regeneration of some shrubs and black cottonwoods they thought were decimated.
"It's looking pretty good in some areas, but there are definitely areas where it was so hot nothing is going to come back," Skelly said.
North-facing slopes, which tend to hold more moisture, are faring better then south-facing slopes, which dry out faster and now contain more cheatgrass.
There are a couple problem areas, however. Willow trees that once grew along streams in Ash Canyon have shown no signs of coming back, but officials plan on organizing a planting of new ones soon.
Also result of the fire, the noxious weed Russian knapweed has taken a stronghold in a meadow in Kings Canyon. There was some knapweed there before the fire, Skelly said, but now "it's all over the place."
Land managers have been on the lookout for noxious weeds that dominate native species while providing none of the food or shelter native wildlife need to survive since the fire last summer.
Noxious weeds often spring up quickly on disturbed ground, where fire, construction or vehicle traffic has uprooted the native vegetation. The weeds sprout far quicker after a devastating event than native plants and once established, they prevent natural vegetation from coming in.
"That's the kind of thing we're trying to prevent out there," Skelly said.
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