About two-thirds of Unit 28 in the Clear Creek burn area near Salmon has been re-opened to hunting.
Meeting in a telephone conference call October 12, Fish and Game Commissioners voted unanimously to re-open another section of Unit 28. The hunting unit was closed at the request of the Forest Service so workers could finish containing the huge Clear Creek fire and complete emergency rehabilitation of burned-over areas.
Part of the unit was re-opened earlier. The Commission's second action leaves only about a third of the unit closed. The remaining closed portion could be opened before antlerless elk hunting starts if Forest Service operations there are finished.
The area remaining closed is mostly a portion of lower Panther Creek and its side tributaries.
Effective October 15, the hunting closure is rescinded in the following portions of the unit:
- That area defined on the north by the existing closure, on the east by the Ridge Road 020, and on the west by the Napias Creek Road 242 - Moccasin Creek Road 021 - Deep Creek Road 101 - Panther Creek Road 055 from Deep Creek to Morgan Creek Summit, and on the south by the Unit 28 boundary.
- That area bounded on the east by the Silver Creek Road 108 - Panther Creek Road 055 to Forney, on the north by the Porphyry Creek-bighorn Crags Road 112 - 113 to the Crags Campground and Trails 021 - 045, and the west and south by the boundary of Unit 28.
Commissioners noted that refunds are still available to hunters who hold controlled hunt tags for Unit 28. Leftover controlled hunt permits are still available over the counter for the unit.
Commissioners encouraged hunters to harvest big game animals that might otherwise overcrowd winter habitat left by the fire.
The Commission held its October meeting at Salmon to allow Commissioners to tour the burned area with staff biologists. What they saw indicated some bad news for wildlife in the short term but mostly a good outlook for the future.
Commissioner Marcus Gibbs, of Grace, said, "Where it's bad, it's terrible but it's not as devastated as I thought it would be. From a wildlife standpoint, I'm not worried."
About five percent of the area, including some elk wintering areas and watersheds, was burned so severely that it will be a long time recovering. Another 25 percent burned with moderate intensity. On about 70 percent of the 216,000 acres of the fire, habitat burned at low intensity or not at all.
Biologists expect the areas that burned at low and moderate intensity to be more productive of wildlife in coming years than they have been.