Idaho’s Wood River Valley was in the full swing of the summer season when lightning ignited the Beaver Creek Fire of 2013. In just a few days’ time, the fire had grown so large and moved close enough to populated areas that hundreds of people in the communities of Hailey and Ketchum had to be evacuated. The valley filled with smoke, forcing businesses to close their doors and tourists to leave town as fast as they could. While the fire burned for more than three weeks and impacted more than 100,000 acres, amazingly only one home was lost.
In the weeks following the fire, heavy rain literally washed hillsides away and turned the Valley’s prized fishery river, the Big Wood, black with soot and debris. August of 2013 and the following months were challenging ones for the local economy due to the steep decline in tourism.
In response to the devastation, the 5B Restoration Coalition (5BRC) was formed. This community derived effort, facilitated by the National Forest Foundation, included diverse stakeholders who came together around a vision to restore natural resources post-fire and build community resilience that could lead to solutions that would alleviate negative impacts of future wildfires.
For more than 5 years, the 5BRC has worked collaboratively to develop priorities, build stronger private-public partnerships, and encourage community stewardship for sustainable outcomes.
Recently the 5BRC celebrated one of their largest successes to date, the finalization of the Deer Creek Project. The Deer Creek drainage was heavily burned in the fire and impacted by the floods that followed.
Working along the Forest Service to identify priorities and funding strategies, 5BRC was able to create a restoration package that involved significant improvements such as:
- the relocation of the primary access road above the floodplain,
- reconnection of side river channels,
- installation of large wood structures in the river,
- replacement of culverts, revegetation on hillsides, and
- reconstruction of trails and bridges.
A drainage that was literally inaccessible post fire now once again supports a wealth of wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.