A case study on the 2021 BootLeg Wildfire

TNC Sycan Marsh Preserve and the 2021 Bootleg Wildfire

Controlled burning is key to lowering fire severity during wildfire season

While the Sycan Marsh Preserve is in a different national forest, the lessons learned from the Bootleg Fire can provide insights into how fire might be impacted by forest treatments on the Deschutes National Forest as they do share the same forest types and historical fire regimes as well as similar soils and climatic conditions.

Prior to the Bootleg fire, the Sycan Marsh Preserve went through a series of forest restoration treatments to:

  1. Improve the health of the ecosystem
  2. Promote biodiversity conservation
  3. Increase resilience to warmer, drier weather
  4. To moderate the intensity and severity of wildfires

In 2021, the Bootleg wildfire burned its way across the Fremont-Winema National Forest including 12,000 acres of The Nature Conservancy’s Sycan Marsh Preserve. 

After the Bootleg fire, scientists were able to look in depth at how treated sections of the Sycan Marsh Preserve looked after wildfire compared to an untreated section. Their findings were astounding and make for a great example of the importance of bringing restoration through thinning and low severity controlled burns back into our dry forests. 

Quick facts: 

  • During the 2021 Bootleg fire, Areas previously treated with controlled burning, either alone or in combination with thinning, burned with lower severity. 

  • Areas treated with controlled burning had 75% LESS tree mortality than untreated areas. 

  • Thinning alone was found less effective to mitigate wildfire severity than thinning + controlled burning. Wildfire severity was still lower in sections of thinning than those that were untreated. 

  • The Sycan Marsh Preserve restoration efforts are very similar to those in the Deschutes National Forest and the forest thinning and prescribed burns we see here. While these two forests have their similarities and differences, the goal to prevent catastrophic wildfire remains constant.

Key Results: 

  • Even under extreme fire weather conditions, wildfire severity was far lower in areas that had received controlled burn and thinning practices prior to the Bootleg Fire. 
  • Through fuel reduction practices, the firefighters were safer during their fire suppression efforts due to decreased heat and intensity of the fire as well as increased access points for fire control. 

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Join our newsletter list to receive updates on forest restoration activity in the Deschutes National Forest, including temporary trail closures, prescribed fire announcements, and related community events.

* indicates required
(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project