The Hunter Falls wildfire burned 740 acres of wilderness area near a popular hiking trail in Southwest Reno last month. Tuesday a group of volunteers and staff from Friends of Nevada Wilderness headed into the area to remove invasive weeds before they take over the burned land.
Experts say after fire moves through, it's important to start restoration efforts right away. Renee Aldrich used a shovel to remove a three foot tall musk thistle from the drainage area near the Hunter Falls hiking trail. “They spread by seed and can cause a lot of damage," Aldrich explained.
The Hunter Falls Fire started on May 17th and burned for nearly a week in rugged terrain above the popular hiking trail. "The meadow above the waterfall was pretty close to the fire site and getting rid of the musk thistle up there and not letting them go to seed will keep the thistle out of the fire area," said Aldrich.
Pat Bruce, of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, says the organization helps government agencies protect Nevada's wild lands and wilderness areas. "We couldn't do it without our volunteers. We have such great volunteers from toddlers to well over the senior citizen threshold," he said.
Michael Jeffers, who was out hiking with his dog, says he appreciates anything that keeps the trails beautiful. "This is a great trail it goes up to Hunter Creek Falls which is beautiful once you get up in the trees up in there," he said.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been removing invasive weeds since 2007. This year volunteers have removed more than 5,000 musk thistle plants from the Mt. Rose Wilderness area. Efforts are supported with grants from the Truckee River Fund and the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada.
Musk thistles are especially invasive because the seeds live in the ground for 15 years or more. "So this is a long term project,” said Aldrich. “We'll keep working on it. Currently we're working on containing it, and then slowly, hopefully reduce the population size," she added.
Officials haven't released the cause of the Hunter Falls fire, but experts say with all the dry weather it's important to exercise extreme caution whenever you're out hiking.