Smoky skies in the valley are reminding me of what we were dealing with two years ago with the Beaver Creek Fire.
As Eye on Sun Valley recently reported:
“The fire burned 114,900 acres—8,500 severely and 19,000 moderately– from Deer Creek to Baker Creek until it was contained on Aug. 31 . Seventeen hundred firefighters attacked it with helicopters and Pulaskis as 8,000 valley residents were evacuated from their homes or told to be ready to evacuate. And when the fire had subsided, mudslides ripped apart roads in Deer Creek and Greenhorn, where 18 inches of water rushed down the road and filled homes with mud” (August 9, 2015).
The Beaver Creek fire spurred a great deal of immediate community response, partnerships, and joint action. In the year following the fire, a broad coalition of conservation and recreation organizations, private landowners, business and economic interests, and government agencies combined forces to protect and restore lands and natural assets in the Wood River Valley. The group became known as the 5B Restoration Coalition and is now working to apply the region’s best thinking across sectors to develop creative and effective solutions that will generate community and ecological resilience.
In the spring of 2014, shortly after I hired on as the BCRD Wood River Valley Trail Coordinator, I received an invitation to join the group, which I was happy to accept. I could see that my involvement would provide me with opportunities to collaborate with others toward getting damaged trails rebuilt. Synergies toward repairing our trails materialized, but I soon realized that the 5B Restoration Coalition brings much more to our community than the important work of helping our trails recover. Members of the organization are working collaboratively on many aspects of post fire resiliency including improving wildlife habitat, reducing the spread of noxious weeds, restoring wetlands, studying the economic impacts of the fire, and many more vitally important post fire projects. Its members have coordinated across agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions to document the wide variety of post-fire accomplishments that have been achieved: https://docs.google.com/viewera=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnw1YnJlc3RvcmF0aW9uY29hbGl0aW9uc2l0ZXxneDo0ZmEwNGMyYWQ3NjQxOWY3). The Coalition is currently working to determine the funding gaps needed to complete long-term rehabilitation and restoration work in the valley.
The Coalition is also focused on supporting major restoration in Deer Creek, where almost 70% of the drainage was burned during the Beaver Creek Fire. After heavy rains triggered substantial debris flows that damaged roads, campgrounds, and trails, the area was closed to the public. This summer the Ketchum Ranger District has made a lot of repairs to the main Deer Creek Road and other infrastructure in Deer Creek. The drainage is now open to limited camping opportunities, and the area is open to foot traffic. The district is currently at work on repairs to portions of the Wolftone to Kinsey trails. In July volunteers with the Wood River Bicycle Coalition assisted the District with a trail reroute near the bottom of Howard’s Trail, which allowed for a connection between Deer Creek and the Greenhorn trail system to be opened. Work is ongoing, but restoring Deer Creek will be a multi-year project.
In June 2015 the 5B Restoration Coalition held an evening picnic at the home of Dan and Martine Drackett to celebrate accomplishments and share future projects with the Wood River Valley community. Over 200 people gathered for the inspiring event.
The Coalition’s work is building momentum, and with strong community support, the Coalition hopes to continue developing community and ecological resilience in the Wood River Valley. The Coalition’s efforts and goals will be supported through the 5B Restoration Fund, which the National Forest Foundation – which also facilitates the Coalition – has offered to match up to $100,000.00. If you’d like to learn more about the 5B Restoration Coalition, or get involved, please visit https://sites.google.com/site/5brestorationcoalitionsite/.