Phillips: Bad news for the South Fork Boise River

August 22, 2013 

My friends Ryan Spiller and Eric Moncada of Anglers fly shop in Boise, took a trip to the South Fork and gave a firsthand report of the aftermath. The canyon got pretty well scorched. You can see photos on Moncada's blog at flyfishingboise.blogspot.com.

The South Fork is going to look different from now on. I've seen a lot of big fires through the years and seen how quickly the land usually goes from black to green.

Things look different after a wildfire, no question, but they're rarely moonscapes. Nature heals fast.

But this year's fires have me rattled. They're just burning so big and fierce this summer. Having the Owyhee River and the South Fork hit in the same year is scary enough, not to mention the Big Wood around Sun Valley, and the Middle Fork of the Boise for the second straight year.

I know riparian areas recover fast because there's typically willows and other fast-growing plants there, and obviously there's a water source.

But erosion is always a concern, and losing big trees can mean losing shade that cools rivers. I doubt fish populations are going to be drastically harmed by fires, and research has shown wildfires can benefit productivity in some rivers.

Southern Idaho has seen a lot of fires in the last 20 years, and there are still so many great places to fish. But I can't help wondering at what point fires come too often, and burn too hot, and there's a lot more than fishing affected by them.

I'm trying not to freak out, but it's getting tougher with every hot, smoky summer I see.

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