Hawken fire restoration to begin. | NevadaAppeal.com
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Hawken fire restoration to begin.

The Associated Press

If all goes as planned and the weather cooperates, work is expected to begin in April on replanting forest land burned by the Hawken fire west of Reno.

The fire last July burned 2,700 acres, but no homes were lost. The U.S. Forest Service said as many as 120,000 tree seedlings will be planted over the next three years.

“We’ll wait for the snow to get off the site and soil temperatures that are adequate,” said Amanda Brinnand, a forester with the Carson Ranger District.

The Hawken Fire, ignited July 6 by sparks from grinding equipment at a construction site, raced through canyons and hilly terrain near Caughlin Ranch.

Most of the burned acreage is federally owned, with 1,949 acres charred in the national forest and 469 acres of that land in the Mount Rose Wilderness.

The wilderness area will be left to heal on its own, but the Forest Service plans to offer a helping hand in other parts of the burn area. The idea is to bring back the trees.

“There were some areas that sustained very heavy mortality, 100 percent, and those are the areas we’re planting first,” Brinnand said.

Some 20,000 conifer seedlings will be planted this spring in areas burned most severely by the fire, Brinnand said. That’s ahead of a far larger effort in spring 2009, when 90,000 seedlings are planned for planting.

Cost of restoration planning and the first year of planting will be about $63,000.

In all, as many as 450 acres will be planted with Jeffrey, ponderosa and sugar pine seedlings during the next three years, according to the rehabilitation plan.

Another stage of restoration still is several months away, and its size will depend on how many burned but still-living trees die.

“This winter, this wet winter, should help them survive, but a lot of them are too damaged,” Brinnand said. “They will still die.”

Some of those that do will become firewood. About June, depending on how well roads in the fire area dry, the public will be offered the opportunity to obtain permits to collect wood from fire-killed trees on as many as 200 acres near existing roads.

Foresters also will be watching how highly flammable mountain mahogany recovers from the fire.

If it doesn’t, and Brinnand said the brush typically doesn’t bounce back well from fires, it could be replanted on as many as 50 acres. Shrub seedlings could be planted on another 200 acres.

Restoration efforts on privately owned land burned by the Hawken Fire already have occurred. In early February, Washoe County and the Nevada Land Conservancy used a helicopter to seed about 350 acres.

Last fall, crews sprayed seed and hydromulch on 40 acres to help control erosion close to Caughlin Ranch.