Recovery Mission Tackles Local Land Burned by Fire - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Recovery Mission Tackles Local Land Burned by Fire

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John Potter
Channel 2 News

The wide open land east of Highway 395, formerly covered in golden sagebrush, shrubs and trees has never been this roughed up. As the Bureau of Land Management's Billy Britt described it to us, "Bare ground. A few stumps here and there. But not a lot left where it actually burned."

The sagebrush, used by wildlife for shelter, feed and breeding was first to go. Not much is left. Britt told us "A lot of that stuff that burned are areas that the mule deer and a variety of species come down and winter in."

Britt has lived here all his life. It isn't just damaged acreage to him. "It's hard to see homes going up. It's also hard to see the land burning up, because we're losing it acre by acre every year."

But as bad as the blackened ground looks, the worst is yet to come. This formerly pristine stretch of western landscape is now vulnerable for another ugly cheatgrass takeover.

We were in Washoe Valley to see some fast work being done to bring more than 500 scorched acres back to life. A leased helicopter loaded up with seed made multiple trips to the land scorched in the Washoe Drive Fire.

Timing is critical. This was a flash fire, burning so fast, a lot of the cheatgrass still survived inside the ground. It's now being attacked by the BLM with native seeds to stop the vicious cycle of more cheatgrass and more fires. As the BLM's Alan Bittner described it, "We're also putting out the seed to make sure that we get something else on the ground and have success germinating something."

Their weapon: 6,000 pounds of seeds, 450 pounds at a time, for 555 acres. All delivered by helicopter. Each trip delivering good, native plant seeds that will begin to emerge in the coming spring. Bittner told us, "Some of the root wads that are still alive are going to re-sprout, and some of the seed will take as long as we get some weather here yet."

And with the seeding job done, that's all they need now. To win this battle for the health of the land: a change in the weather… high hopes for wetness.

That hope for moisture moved up the reseeding schedule. It was scheduled for Wednesday, but they moved it up to Monday when they heard about an approaching weather system.

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