VALE — The Long Draw fire burned much of southern Malheur County in July, blackening more than 556,000 acres — 872 square miles — but there have been signs of renewal already on the land, with plants coming back as the result of natural processes and seeding programs by the Bureau of Land Management.
According to information provided by Mark Wilkening, BLM public information officer, the fire, which burned an area between Jordan Valley and McDermitt, on the Oregon and Nevada border, most of the reseeding efforts planned had been completed by the middle of December with the sage brush seeding still to be done.
The challenge was getting the seed, given the number of acres burned across the West this summer.
Thirty miles of temporary fencing has been completed, as well as drill seeding of grass on nearly 60,000 acres and 74 miles of dozer lines seeded, Carolyn Chad, Vale District associate manager, said.
The agency is now in the process of contracting out sagebrush seeding on more than 47,000 acres.
While seed was available, there was competition to get it, Chad said. “We couldn’t necessarily get the varieties we wanted and the quantities we wanted.”
The seeding treatments were a mix of native and non-native species, with noxious weeds managed by mechanical and chemical methods, Wilkening said.
In the meantime, ranchers affected by the fire are still weighing their options and are hoping there is enough moisture to bring range back.
“We finally got some snow,” Jeanette Yturriondobeitia, said, adding that she hopes the snow makes things grow.
She and her husband, Richard, operate a ranch that was about in the middle of the burn and lost about a third of their cattle herd.
“We’re doing just fine,” she said. “We bought some hay and had some donated.” They have two pastures and one seeding that did not burn, she said.
“We won’t rebuild (the herd) until we have feed for them,” Yturriondobeitia said.
But grass and other plants were beginning to return as early as September, she said. She does not know how soon cattle will be allowed back on the public range, she said.