DUCHESNE — Nearly 70,000 acres were burned in the Dollar Ridge Fire last July, destroying cabins and prompting concern for the future of wildlife in the area.
One year later, biologists rehabilitating the area say the scorched land near Strawberry Reservoir is well on its way to recovery.
"Going from completely scorched earth that looked like Mars to looking like it does today, it’s just amazing," Division of Wildlife Resources biologist Derrick Ewell said Monday during a tour of the area. "The amount of grass and vegetation that has come back has created an awesome wildlife habitat."
Native seeds were scattered in the fall on roughly 13,000 of the burned acres — and, thanks to a wet fall, winter, and spring, there's hope that the seeding efforts will be successful, though scientists say they won't know for sure for a few more years. Already, grass and wildflowers have begun to sprout from the ground.
Meanwhile, other steeper, rockier parts of the landscape could take decades to fully recover.
The fire, which was reported on July 1, 2018, burned through August, scorching at more than 68,000 acres near Strawberry Reservoir. It destroyed 363 structures, including at least 75 residences, and cost upwards of $20 million to fight. Officials determined that the fire was human-caused.
At the time, many worried about big game living in the area. But GPS trackers showed that many local moose, elk and deer didn't leave their charred habitat, and those that did quickly returned. Scientists are similarly optimistic about the future of these animals.
"I anticipate that over the next couple years or decade, this fire is going to increase the health of deer, elk, moose herds up here," Ewell said.
The major focus for the rehabilitation efforts over the next several years will be on the Strawberry River itself, where the fire caused debris flows and washed out a road, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists said.