Aerial seeding and re-seeding of high burn severity areas within the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire burn scar has recently been completed. The Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) monitoring phase for the largest fire in New Mexico history identified a few areas to re-seed that did not take during last year’s seeding/mulching operations. Areas of high burn severity that were not seeded last year also received seeding; these areas were geographically separated from the main body of severely burned areas.
“The seeding and re-seeding of these high burn severity areas are intended to provide for quick establishment of vegetative (plant) ground cover to maintain soil productivity, water quality, and reduce threats of flooding and sedimentation to downstream communities,” BAER Coordinator Mike Natharius stated. The seed mix included a high percent of non-persistent annual barley and a smaller percent of native grass seeds. The barley provides for vegetative cover the first year, and then acts as a protective litter layer for the soil the following year.
In spring of this year, Natharius and BAER Lead Trainee Micah Kiesow spent 2 weeks on horseback in the Gila Wilderness and surrounding areas assessing the success of last year’s seeding, and the need to seed in areas that were not seeded last year.
A contract company with two fixed wing planes conducted the aerial seeding on 6,400 acres on the Glenwood and Reserve Ranger Districts in the areas of Corner Mountain and Sacaton Mountain. The seeding operation was completed in 7 days using the Negrito airstrip.
Kiesow stated, “the recent seeding/re-seeding operation was completed by the beginning of the monsoon season which provides the best odds for success.” For seeding to be successful, it is important to take advantage of as much of the monsoon season as possible.