Elk NetworkHow Fire Has Affected Idaho’s Elk Habitat Past and Future

Conservation | June 1, 2017

The Great Fire of 1910 burned approximately three million acres of forestland across Idaho, Montana and Washington prompting the Forest Service to implement long-held fire suppression policies through the early 1970s that changed the ecology of forests. Shrub fields that nurtured Idaho’s legendary elk herds became a uniform canopy of tall trees with very little habitat for elk beneath.

Prescribed burns and managed wildfires are changing the landscape for the better.

“Fires are so important. Fires are what made the Clearwater elk herd in the first place,” said Jerome Hansen, Idaho Fish and Game Clearwater regional supervisor. “Those turn-of-the-century fires created millions of acres of shrub fields. Those are growing up in the second story trees. And now it’s prescribed fire and wildland fire that are helping to open those trees up again and creating the lush habitat that elk need.”

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, in conjunction with the RMEF and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, produced a series of informational videos to highlight the importance of prescribed burning.