What's Happening at MSRF?

Fire Season in the Methow

Regrowth after Fire

Reed Canary grass sprouts on the burned banks of Beaver Creek

Fire is not an uncommon occurrence in the Methow. Because native plant species have adapted to the cycle of growth and fire, healthy riparian areas usually recover without human intervention. Burned trees with live roots will send up new shoots soon after the fire. Seeds for new trees are also released by the heat. Tree snags and burned brush continue to serve as habitat for birds, insects, and other plants until live vegetation takes their place. While the loss of shade warms creek water, the lack of vegetation to suck the water up leaves more water in the creeks to support fish during the low water period of late summer. Even post-fire landslides can be beneficial, as they add nutrients, gravel, and woody debris to the water.  So, even though these watersheds may appear devastated, they will often grow back stronger than they were before if left alone.

Tree sprouts

New leaves sprout from a burned-out stump near Beaver Creek.

When Action is Needed

Grazed and cleared watersheds that lack established trees and other native vegetation tend to recover more slowly after fire. This delay gives weed species the chance to move in quickly. Weeds like Canada thistle and reed canary form extensive root systems that, while helpful in holding the banks against erosion,  choke out growth of slower-growing shrubs and trees necessary to provide shade over the water. Replanting in these areas is often necessary to avoid significant infestation by weedy plants.

Watersheds replanted recently (less than about six years ago) may also lack the resiliency to bounce back from a fire event. Many of our recently completed revegetation work along Beaver Creek that burned in the Carlton Complex fire did not have adequate roots established to send up new sprouts. This is especially evident when comparing re-sprout in adjacent areas of better-established native plantings.

MSRF is working with the Okanogan Conservation District and our local partners to identify where interim treatments may be needed to reduce sediment to the creek and address risk of bank failure at several sites between Highway 20 and Balky Hill Road. By monitoring these treatments, and efforts by other landowners in the Beaver Creek Drainage, we can refine our approach to future fire recovery. For more information, or to request assistance with  your property, please call Chris Johnson at MSRF (429-1232) or Kirsten Cook at OCD (422-0855 Ext 100).

MSRF has also requested a small amount of funding to assist private landowners with initial assessment and treatment of burned areas Frazier Creek, a tributary of Beaver Creek which was particularly hard-hit by the fire. To secure funding for more intensive fire restoration, MSRF and our partners will need accurate information on the extent of damage and the type of vegetation in place before the fire.

If you own property along Upper Beaver Creek or Frazier Creek that suffered fire damage to the plantings along the creek or in steep slope areas, please contact either MSRF or OCD staff to schedule a site evaluation.

Proper response following a fire is important. Before working in fire-damaged riparian areas, please consult:

Organization Service Contact Phone Number
Methow Conservancy Stewardship Assistance Heidi Anderson 996-2870
Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation Landowner Assistance

Chris Johnson

Jessica Goldberg

429-1232

997-0028 Ext 4

Methow Natives Native Plant Resources Rob Crandall 341-4060
Natural Resource Conservation Service Technical Assistance Sarah Troutman-Zahn 422-2750
Okanogan Conservation District Technical Assistance Kirsten Cook 422-0855 Ext 100
Plantas Nativa Native Plant Resources Camden Shaw 341-4133

 

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