GLC hears South Tobacco Roots project update

The Gravelly Landscape Collaborative met at the Alder Fire Station on April 23 and received a report from Bureau of Land Management officials on South Tobacco Root watershed projects. 

Pat Fosse, assistant field manager with the Dillon BLM office, and four of her crew members who assessed the landscape in 2016,  gave project updates regarding range, fire, timber and riparian areas in the South Tobacco Roots. 

“We have 16 watersheds that we assess at the landscape level and have a 10-year adaptive plan,” Fosse said. The Tobacco Roots were assessed in 2006 and again in 2016.

Kipper Blotkamp,  assessment team leader, reported from a timber aspect and what projects had taken place on the landscape. Blotkamp noted insects were rampant in the Tobacco Roots and his team was able to salvage what they could from affected timber. More than 1,000 acres was commercially harvested, starting with areas with easiest access, leaving some high priority stands with more difficult access. “Our focus is cutting and trying to increase the health and resilience of the trees through prescribed maintenance and thinning,” he said. 

Sean Claffey spoke about riparian treatments in the area, saying 15 miles of riparian areas saw complete treatment. Claffey said he has been working with the Ruby Valley Conservation District and Ruby Valley Watershed Council to help restore wet meadow habitat and maintenance. Aspen trees were most prominent in the riparian areas, according to Claffey, who said they had successful regeneration after the stream treatments and activities.

BLM fuels specialist Joe Sampson said his program treated 9,001 acres with 19 units. Sampson said he’s currently burning about 4,000 acres a year with his program, which is good, but would like to be closer to 10,000 to see faster turnaround and regrowth. “We’re doing good work it’s just slow,” he said. 

Kelly Savage, BLM range specialist on the project, quoted 33 allotments in the South Tobacco Roots, eight of which require grazing changes. “Only a few changes to lessen the impact on the riparian areas and meet with those standards,” she said, adding the BLM works hard to meet with producers and keep them active on the landscape. 

GLC facilitator Jen Boyer asked the group for their thoughts on moving forward with work in  the Tobacco Roots, similar to what they’ve done in the Greenhorns. “Is this something we want to take a deeper dive into and talk goals and management?”

The group determined an interest in moving forward with the South Tobacco Root watershed and working with the United States Forest Service and BLM to share data and support to move forward.

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