ELMORE COUNTY -- The 130,000-acre Elk Complex is one of four "megafires" that torched about 400,000 acres east of Boise this August.
Now, the fire is out and rehabilitation is starting.
In Elmore County, decades-old pines stand like charred toothpicks for miles. The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) didn't wait long to decide what to do with their part of the land in the Elk Complex Fire.
"Within three days of when the fire started, we had foresters and other staff people out here evaluating how to remove the timber that had burned to be able to retain some of the value in that timber," said Emily Callihan, Public Information Officer with IDL.
Callihan said crews will log about 5,000 of the department's 6,000 acres in the Elk Complex burn area. IDL will then hold five timber salvage sales, which are expected to generate between $5 million and $7 million dollars for the department's endowment fund.
Bob Helmer is the Forest Management Bureau Chief for IDL, and is based in their Coeur d'Alene office. Helmer says the logging operation involves a lot of travel.
"The logs are being hauled all the way to La Grande and Pilot Rock, Oregon, so they can only make one trip a day," said Helmer. "The loggers were telling us they were burning around 87 to 90 gallons of fuel in a round trip."
MILLIONS OF SEEDLINGS TO BE PLANTED
Once the logging is complete, crews can start reforestation.
"We're going to be planting one and half million tree seedlings within the next two to three years," said Callihan.
It will take many years to get the forest to look the way it did before the fire, and Helmer estimates it won't look the same for 60 to 70 years. Experts say reforestation efforts should be consistent with the types of trees that grow in the area.
"You can't transfer seed more than about 40 miles, and you need to keep it within an elevation zone too," said Helmer.
We're told crews will get some seedlings from nearby landowners and other nurseries.
The money earned on the timber sales will go to the IDL's Endowment Fund, much of which goes to public schools.