USA — A seed-dropping helicopter is scheduled to take to the skies Fridayover Peavine Peak in the first of a two-part effort to treat land charred by amajor wildfire.
Later this month, volunteers will finish the job on foot, seeding thefire-scarred hillsides of Reno’s backyard mountain.
The job is designed to restore a landscape important to people and wildlife,said Becky Stock, project director for the Nevada Land Conservancy.
“This is our playground area. It’s also very critical habitat,”Stock said. “There are a lot of creatures that depend on that area.”
Some 6,000 acres were burned by last August’s quick-moving Verdi Fire, whichthreatened homes in the Somersett area.
No structures were lost, but land blackened by racing flames is important,Stock said.
It lies in the Truckee Meadows watershed and silt-laden runoff from the firearea could ultimately muddy the Truckee River, the primary source of drinkingwater for Reno-Sparks.
Peavine also serves as crucial winter habitat for a diminishing mule deerherd, already suffering substantially due to new neighborhoods marching upPeavine’s flanks.
Mule deer depend on sagebrush and bitterbrush during the winter for bothshelter and food. Loss of the brush to last August’s fire could further diminisha herd whose population has plummeted from more than 4,000 to less than 1,000deer in the last 25 years.
“If we’re going to have a herd up there, there has to be a place for itto spend the winter,” said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Departmentof Wildlife. “For the ones that are left on that mountain, this is prettyimportant. They can’t afford too many more losses of habitat.”
The Peavine restoration project is being coordinated by the Nevada LandConservancy, working with the Department of Wildlife, Washoe County, theTruckee-Carson Conservation District, Nevada Department of Agriculture, NevadaDivision of Forestry, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Sierra Pacific Power Co.,Somersett Development Co., and the city of Reno.
Almost $30,000 has been raised by participants to fund restoration work.
On Friday, a contracted helicopter will scatter selected drainage areas inthe Peavine burn area with brush and native grass seedlings. Volunteers on footwill distribute another 2,000 seedlings on March 24.
Re-establishing native vegetation on the mountain is critical to prevent thefire area from being overrun with cheatgrass and other non-native, invasiveplants. Cheatgrass thrives in burn areas and highly flammable, will likely fuelfuture fires once established, experts say.