Moisture may help Pine Ridge regrowth

A Bureau of Land Management official says recent precipitation has boosted the prospects for reseeding efforts taking hold in the area of the Pine Ridge Fire, and he is hoping for more moisture.

“This last storm that we got, where we got the snow here in the valley, was very timely because it was starting to dry out,” said Jim Dollerschell, a rangeland management specialist for the BLM in Grand Junction.

Last summer’s Pine Ridge Fire burned some 14,000 acres near De Beque in the largest fire ever within the Grand Junction BLM office’s jurisdiction.

Continuing dry weather last year limited seed germination of a temporary, quick-growing cover crop.  The BLM this year did aerial seeding involving a variety of vegetation, mostly native, with an eye toward longer-term stabilization.

Dollerschell said he visited the area a few weeks ago and some grass seedlings were sprouting. With the recent storms being followed by warmer temperatures, he’s expecting more growth now.

Seeing some germination has been promising.

He’s hoping for rain to get through May and June, with the expectation that the vegetation then benefits from monsoon moisture in July and August.

“June is a tough month, so dry and hot. If we can get plants up pretty good before that hits, they’ll stand a pretty good chance of surviving,” he said.

The susceptibility to erosion was demonstrated shortly after the fire occurred. A storm resulted in ash and debris reaching the Colorado River. The Clifton Water District shut down its river intake for more than a day.

Part of the problem is that a lot of the burned area consisted of solid sagebrush or piñon-juniper forest, without much existing understory vegetation that could grow back after the fire, he said.

He said that with the time it will take for the reseeding to take hold, “nothing’s really going to be too stable up there for another year or two.”


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