Press Release

Forest Service to start prescribed fires in August to improve Clearwater elk habitat

Burns will be started when conditions allow and could result in short-term area closures

The North Fork and Lochsa-Powell Ranger Districts of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests recently announced plans for annual summer prescribed fire projects beginning mid-August when weather and fuel conditions are optimal to acheive management objectives while minimizing smoke in surrounding communities.

Summer prescribed fires are ignited to take advantage of the conditions that natural fires would normally occur in at these typically higher elevation areas.

“Summer prescribed burns vary only slightly from the spring and fall burns,” said, North Fork District Ranger, Andrew Skowlund. “Working in these areas a few weeks before typical fall burning, provides us with longer days, more predictable weather and fuel conditions and better opportunities to accomplish project objectives.”

“The prescribed fire treatments will provide for the sustained availability of elk forage and overall forest resiliency,” said Lochsa-Powell District Ranger, Brandon Knapton.

Fish and Game has worked with the Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on these projects in an effort to boost elk herds in the area. 

“We’re hoping to see landscape-level fire treatments so we can get a population-sized impact on elk,” said Clay Hickey, Fish and Game's Clearwater Region wildlife biologist.

prescribed fire.jpg
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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

Knapton said wildfires play an integral role in the environment and are a natural process that will occur, regardless if it is a planned prescribed burn or an unplanned wildfire.

“This provides an opportunity to return fire’s natural role to the landscape within the historical timeframe, while igniting at times when we have more control over the smoke and fire behavior.”

The planned prescribed fires by ranger district are listed below. Fire managers said it is unlikely all units will be achieved this year. The acreages below represent the total acres in the project areas. Only a small percentage of those acres will be ignited.

The fires will be closely monitored and allowed to burn around the landscape naturally, with potential to impact the total acres in the project areas.

Lochsa-Powell Ranger District – 3832 acres planned:

• Weitas – 2956 acres located 10 miles north of Lochsa historical ranger station

• Coolwater Ridge – 876 acres located seven miles northeast of Lowell, ID

North Fork Ranger District – 10,281 acres planned:

• Barnard Junction – 7066 acres located 25 miles northeast of Pierce, south of Forest Service Road #250

• Moose Kelley – 1229 acres located 14 miles east of Kelly Creek Work Center

• Long Creek – 1986 acres located 16 miles north of Kelly Creek Work Center

Short duration trail and area closures may be implemented for public and firefighter safety during prescribed burn activities. Here's information about fire closures

Smoke from prescribed fires is significantly less than what would be expected from a mid-summer wildfire. If smoke concentrations approach minimum air quality standards, ignitions may be delayed until air quality improves. Residual smoke may be visible for longer periods following ignition, but the bulk of the smoke is likely to dissipate in a day or two.Information on these prescribed burns will be found in these locations:

For general fire information statewide, you can refer to Idaho Fish and Game's Fire Information web page. 

For more information on the Lochsa-Powell prescribed burns, call Sean Gaines or Neal Cox at (208) 926-4274. For more information on the North Fork prescribed burns, please call Brandon Skinner or TC Peterson at (208) 765-7480.

Here's more information about how prescribed fires improve elk and other wildlife habitat: