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Sage Hen Reservoir & High Risk Wildfire Zones
Issues: Fire, Watersheds, Wildlife
Partner: Idaho Conservation League
Airport Origin : Boise, ID
EcoFlight's conservation partners recently won a lawsuit aimed to restart the process to form the Integrated Forest Restoration Project for Sage Hen Reservoir. The Forest Service initially created this project without proper public input and a lack of focus on sensitive wildlife and flora. We flew to examine the Sage Hen Reservoir area and create public awareness about how the Forest Service is going to restart this process. Our overflight also examined Idaho's highest wildfire-risk area and how private landowners can join in the efforts to minimize wildfire risk.
We flew to the popular Sage Hen Reservoir. Our partners at the Idaho Conservation League are working with the Forest Service to instill best management practices at Sage Hen Reservoir to protect recreation like fishing, boating, and hiking, as well as the forest, water, and critical habitat for sensitive species including the threatened bull trout. The Forest Service initially approved the Sage Hen Integrated Forest Restoration Project, which will heavily affect how the 68,000 acres of public lands are managed for the next twenty years. The Forest Service's plan for Sage Hen was rushed and lacked a proper public comment period. The project included extensive road construction, logging, thinning, prescribed fire, and some watershed restoration. Idaho Conservation League and other groups worked to restart the process, and allow for plentiful (and lawful) public involvement, increased watershed restoration activities, improved recreation infrastructure, and a more thorough environmental analysis to better protect bull trout, sensitive plants species, and wildlife from logging and road work.
Our overflight also examined a high priority wildfire landscape in Southwest Idaho. Based on a study of high-risk firesheds, the Forest Service recently selected the area between Boise, Idaho City, and McCall as the number one priority landscape in Idaho and number eleven in the nation. The Forest Service has allocated $17 million for fuel reduction efforts in this high priority are. Groups are working on fuel reduction projects near Idaho City at Bogus Basin, Sinker Creek-Boise Ridge, and Clear Creek. These forest restoration projects, through thinning, prescribed fire, and other tactics, will reduce exposure of people, communities, and natural resources to the risk of catastrophic wildlife. Much of these forests are intermixed parcels of publicly and privately owned land. A collaborative of groups is working to educate and advocate on the importance of voluntary action by private landowners to reduce fuels on their properties in high fire danger areas. Creating cross-boundary partnerships with private landowners is critical to reduce hazardous fuels and create defensible space around homes to protect the greater forest landscape, private property, and people.