Colorado Parks and Wildlife uses aircraft to reseed part of burn scar above El Jebel

Staff report
A tractor pulls a drill seeder in the Basalt State Wildlife Area in August. Ground that couldn't be reached by heavy equipment was reseeded by airplane on Thursday and Friday.
Aspen Times file

Midvalley residents might have noticed multiple passes by an airplane Thursday and Friday mornings in the skies above the Basalt State Wildlife Area.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife hired a contractor to help reseed rough terrain that was burned by the Lake Christine Fire last year. The agency’s staff reseeded about 500 acres last summer and fall using tractors and other heavy equipment. The aircraft was needed for another 600 acres of terrain inaccessible from the ground, according to Matt Yamashita, acting area wildlife manager.

The airplane was highly visible Friday morning between 7 and 9:30 a.m. It made multiple passes over the valley floor while working one ridge over, across from Whole Foods.

“Some of the seed mixes being used will germinate this spring and summer and are aimed at stabilizing soils to help mitigate flooding and debris left by the fire,” Yamashita said in an email. “Other plant species are native vegetation which will provide forage for deer and elk, the primary management objective of the state wildlife area.”

A second phase of the project will be undertaken in late May or early June when herbicide will be applied by aircraft to combat noxious weeds, he said. Weeds are already competing to take over the burn area.

“Noxious weed eradication is mandated by law and is a continual management project on local land management agency’s lists,” Yamashita said. “Last summer’s fire disturbed large tracts of land which lend themselves to infestations of weeds. During this phase of the project, portions of the state wildlife area that are being targeted will be closed to public use for safety reasons.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife also will team with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Roaring Fork Conservancy for hand crew reseeding efforts in areas that cannot be reached by ground equipment or aircraft. The volunteer day will be June 15. Additional details will be released closer to the project.

In an unrelated project, crews will be undertaking work this spring and summer to ease the risk of flooding and debris flows in the burn scar around Basalt and El Jebel.

Federal, state and local governments teamed up to raise $1.35 million for the work.