TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) Thousands of acres burned by a giant fire in southern Idaho last summer have been seeded with native plants, the Bureau of Land Management says.
However, it will likely take two years to repair the nearly 390 miles of fences destroyed in the Murphy Complex of fires.
Bill Baker, manager of the BLM's Twin Falls district, told a public meeting here Thursday that the district needs $2.2 million to repair the fences but only has $400,000.
The Murphy Complex of fires, started by lightning in late July, burned an area on the Idaho-Nevada border larger than Rhode Island. The fire blackened grassland used by cattle, and wildlife habitat that supports sensitive species such as sage grouse.
BLM officials said teams planted seeds on 63,000 acres before cold weather ended the work. Another 13,000 acres were seeded by aircraft.
Seeds planted include Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheat grass, yarrow and alfalfa.
A third of a planned 19,000 acres also was seeded with bitterbrush, and 48 erosion control structures were restored.
Public and state cooperation helped the effort, said Ken Crane, a BLM rangeland management specialist.
"We had to look at it in a practical sense," he told The Times-News. "It was just too big for us to run around and do it haphazardly."
Work that remains includes seeding thousands more acres of sagebrush, planting willow trees along streams, and finishing the bitterbrush seeding.
Area ranchers rely on the burned area to graze cattle. Crane said it's unclear when cattle will be allowed back onto the burned acreage.
Stuart Murray, president of High Desert Ecology, said the BLM should recognize that large fires are becoming more common, and that returning the land to the way it was before the fire may not be the best plan.
"The way it was wasn't necessarily the best situation in the first place," Murray said.