Central Oregon

B&B plus 10: Fire-hit forest on the mend

Recovery and restoration rate surprises scientists

B&B plus 10: Fire-hit forest on the mend

SANTIAM PASS, Ore. - Like watching a science project, biologists, foresters and those who frequent the forest have been watching change happen near Santiam Pass for the last 10 years.

It was a decade ago that the Booth and Bear Butte fires merged, creating the B&B Complex. The fire burned 90,000 acres over a span of 34 days.

Now, if you head into the burn scar, you see a much different scene. as new life has returned to the area.

"The fish populations are pretty resilient, and they are doing really well," biologist Mike Rehle said Thursday.

Rehle has been studying the river and the fish that live in it for years, even before the massive fire raced across the landscape.

"Some of the smaller streams that had stand-replacement fire along the stream banks actually did increase in temperature slightly," Rehle said.

He added that despite the temperature change, the bull trout who live down stream of the burn scar in the Metolius River saw little effects.

Rehle says the smaller streams that feed into the river acted as a buffer zone for fish.

"These are kind of a natural part of these watersheds on the east side of the Cascades, and these fish have been amazingly resilient in the way they've adapted to them," Rehle said.

One of the other surprising things that scientists say they've seen in the B&B burn scar is just how quickly small shrubs and plants came back.

"There were areas where everything was completely burned up," Forest Service employee Brian Tandy said. "It will take a long time to get trees to grow back in, but to help it out, we will go and do some reforestation."

Experts say it could take years, even decades before the forest is back to full health, but add it's exciting to see the positives come out of such a destructive fire.

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