New Fire Program at McCall Field Campus Sparks Collaboration with Ponderosa State Park

Friday, May 7 2010

Written by Sue McMurray

MCCALL, Idaho – A $455,000 grant soon will ignite a new, collaborative fire mitigation outreach program between the University of Idaho's McCall Field Campus and Ponderosa State Park.

The university's College of Natural Resources was awarded the grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, passed through the Bureau of Homeland Security to the University Idaho last October.

In mid-May, the funding will be used to implement a fire mitigation program focusing on reducing fuels, managing vegetation and protecting 70 structures on more than 3,000 acres of the McCall Field Campus, Ponderosa State Park and surrounding areas. Fire education programs also will be implemented on the Herald Nokes Family Experimental Forest property managed by the University of Idaho.

“Collaborating with the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and Ponderosa State Park to implement the fire mitigation program is a great example of how the university’s land-grant mission can be carried out,” said Duane Nellis, University of Idaho president. “This program provides a unique learning environment where natural resources students get hands-on experience that also benefits Idaho communities.”

"Idaho Parks and Recreation looks forward to working with the University of Idaho in resource management and education within our state parks," said Nancy Merrill, director of Idaho Parks and Recreation. "This is a perfect of example of how state agencies can work together for the betterment of Idaho taxpayers."

The program’s main goal is to teach Idaho residents living on the wildland-urban interface (WUI) and surrounding areas how to protect their homes and properties from the risk of wildland fire. WUI is defined as the area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland.

“The University of Idaho and Ponderosa State Park recognize the dangers associated with the WUI on the boundaries of our properties,” said Richard Taplin, manager of Ponderosa State Park. “The goal of the project is to create a green defense zone to protect the public from fires starting on public and private lands.”

The program will use two, seven-member teams to collect resource data, thin and prune trees, and pile fuels that are already present as well as fuels created by thinning. Work initially will be concentrated along property boundaries to reduce risk to private homes. It also will reduce hazards around park and university facilities, and safeguard the public who visit the park and field campus.

Additionally, a large demonstration area will serve as a regional training center for WUI fire mitigation. Homeowners and land managers will be given tools to take mitigation strategies back to their homes and properties.

Fire mitigation efforts are necessary because of the lack of fire in these areas in recent years. The removal of fire from ecological processes has created unnatural conditions, such as increased vegetation overgrowth. It also has created extremely high fuel loads and conditions that enable wildland fires to destroy all vegetation that would normally survive historic fires. The situation gets even worse with the increased number of private homes in the wildland-urban interface.

Other benefits of the fire mitigation project include restoring and improving unique habitats, improving vegetation, and decreasing potentially dangerous crown fires that historically have destroyed thousands of homes, watersheds, recreational areas, wildlife and forest habitats.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit