BLM closes Pony, Elk fire areas to all human use for two months

rbarker@idahostatesman.comFebruary 25, 2014 

The Bureau of Land Management has temporarily closed 54,200 acres of public land northeast of Mountain Home.

The closure, which is scheduled to last until April 30, is the result if the 2013 Pony and Elk fires. The area will be closed year-round to motorized use for up to three years.

Agency officials say the closures are necessary to support fire rehabilitation efforts and to protect key sage-grouse habitat and crucial winter habitat for mule deer and elk. The southeastern edge of the closure area is located about seven miles north of Mountain Home and extends 5-7 miles north of the Immigrant and Foothill roads.

State Highway 20, county-maintained roads and the Long Tom Reservoir Road will remain open to general public use during both closures.

In the fall, the BLM will re-evaluate the seasonal closure. According to the agency, the motorized vehicle closure will allow existing plants time to recover from the effects of the fire; allow seeded shrub, leafy and grass species to become established; help to slow the spread of noxious weeds; and allow burned areas to re-establish a vegetative cover that protects the soil from erosion and provides for moisture retention. The all-entry closure will help minimize human disturbance to mule deer and elk herds during a critical time of the year and help to ensure the long-term viability of their habitat.

Anyone violating the closure may be subject to a $1,000 fine and imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both.

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