Oregon is experiencing another busy fire season, with the number of acres burned steadily climbing. While many of the devastating effects of large wildfires are obvious, another downside that can easily be overlooked is the threat of invasive species taking over recently burned land. One man is making an effort to combat this issue. Jerry Erstrom, who worked as a fire manager with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for 30 years, knows the challenges that invasive species pose on burned land. The invasive plants have an advantage over native species, Erstrom says, as they “green up a little earlier in the spring, they ripen a little earlier in the summer and they tend to create quite a fire hazard because they’re very fine and flammable”.
What is he doing to stop invasive plants from taking over after a wildfire? After retiring from the BLM, he started growing plants such as yarrow flax and sagebrush, both of which take root in the ground after a fire and help to ward off invasive species from moving in. He now sells those seeds to wilderness management groups across the western U.S., in hopes that his efforts will help restore land that has been scorched by wildfires.
Erstrom notes that human intervention can only go so far. “A timely rainstorm in the spring can make a hero out of any restoration specialist”, he said. “Or the lack thereof can make him a villain. So it depends on which side you’re on when the rain comes.”
The original article was written by John Notarianni for OPB.
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