Depending on weather, seeding will take place sometime between now and mid-January 2013. Wyoming big sagebrush will be aerial seeded by helicopter on approximately 1,750 acres in the Donnelly Gulch area, which is within IFG Game Management Unit (GMU) 21. In the spring of 2013, the Forest Service plans to over-seed mulch, grass and forb species to compliment the seeding and enhance sagebrush establishment.
Following fire in Wyoming sagebrush plant communities, the sagebrush seed bank is lost. Consequently, without supplemental sagebrush seeding the first winter following fire a sagebrush stand will take many years to re-establish. “Further, the 1,750 acres provides critical mule deer winter range for many of the mule deer wintering in GMU 21,” states Greg Painter, IFG Regional Wildlife Biologist.
By losing its plant cover and sagebrush component to fire, the winter range is susceptible to the spread of nearby invasive weed species and accelerated soil erosion. When this occurs, site productivity is diminished and the sagebrush plant community may not return which negatively impacts the mule deer herd.
In addition to the aerial seeding, 500 bare-root Wyoming big sagebrush bare-root seedlings have been purchased from the Lucky Peak Nursery. These seedlings will be planted by hand with additional cooperation from Lemhi County Forest Restoration Group and volunteers who reside in the Salmon and North fork area. Planting will be implemented in the spring of 2013. “Where IFG manages animal populations and the Forest Service manages the habitat they rely on, projects such as these would not be possible without cooperation from the two agencies and non-governmental organizations such as the Lemhi County Forest Restoration Group and local volunteers”, states Painter.