- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is spending just over $1 million in northern Idaho to shore up areas scorched this year by massive wildfires.

The agency on Monday announced the plan for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests aimed at stabilizing roads and trails, preventing erosion, keeping out invasive species and removing hazard trees.

About 288 square miles of the forests burned due to nine wildfires. The agency says that’s the largest number of wildfires in any national forest this fire season. The fires started in early August and burned through September.

The rehabilitation work involves 36.6 miles of trails and 306 projects on 38 Forest Service roads, much of it intended to prevent erosion damage next spring and summer.

“If we don’t take care of these things we may not have the access that allows people to visit their Forest Service land,” said Nez Perce-Clearwater spokeswoman Jeannette Dreadfulwater.

Work has started, but winter is expected to shut down some of the projects, with work resuming in the spring.

Other projects include treating 575 acres for weed management, replacing two outhouse-like toilets destroyed by fire, and removing hazard trees along 18 miles of road and two recreation sites.

The plan also calls for monitoring 21 sites designated for cultural significance. One of the reports says that some sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because they can contribute to research and knowledge about American Indians who lived in the area.

Money for the work comes from the Forest Service’s budget dedicated to wildfires, said Penny Luehring, the agency’s leader on the National Burned Area Emergency Response and Wathershed Improvement Program. She said 55 requests from national forests for money have come in since Sept. 1, adding up to about $12 million.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater is receiving the third most of any national forest on the list.

“They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them,” Luehring said. “They took on a lot, and that’s great.”

Luehring said the Forest Service doesn’t have the money to do all the necessary projects, so national forests have to pick the most important jobs. They have a year to get them done with money through the Burned Area Emergency Response program.

“The clock is ticking,” Luehring said. “They’ve got one year to get the stuff in.”

After that, the Nez Perce-Clearwater will have to use money from its annual budget. The forest will also have to use annual budget money for rehabilitation work from the fires that remains after emergency money is used up.

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