BLM seeds burnt area
The scorched Sutro fire area south of Washoe Lake got a dose of special treatment Wednesday as Bureau of Land Management workers dumped about 5,600 pounds of grass seed over the area.
Using a hired helicopter and pilot, and a bucket resembling a water carrier, seven workers transferred bags of seed to about 800 acres within the burned area of 1,500 acres in an effort to replenish lost vegetation.
Officials said several islands comprising the remaining 700 acres will not necessitate replanting.
The seeding comes on the heels of the most destructive fire season the BLM has encountered, said spokesman Mark Struble.
“This area is a small part of a larger problem,” he said. “Fires burned about 1.6 million acres last summer. That’s eight to 10 times the normal amount.”
The bureau hired four temporary fire rehabilitation specialists and several extra personal for the season and plans to seed a half-million acres.
Officials are hoping that a cover of snow will top the seeds in the next few weeks, creating a layer of moisture for spring sprouts. A successful operation depends heavily on the elements.
The Sutro fire consumed about 1,000 acres of BLM land, 140 acres of Washoe Lake State Park and 360 acres of private land.
To give the grass time to germinate and take root in the soil, BLM Wildlife Biologist Rick Brigham said the area will be off-limits to grazing for at least two growing seasons. “We have to stabilize the soil and stop the erosion.”
A rancher who uses some of the land for sheep herding will be forced to use other land while the seeds sprout.
Slowing the infiltration of noxious weeds, particularly cheat grass, is also part of the effort.
“Cheat grass is an introduced species and the main problems with it are that it’s extremely flammable and there’s nothing that will get in its way,” Brigham said. “When you let it go, you’ll have nothing but a stand of cheat grass.”