Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wildfire rehab effort going well so far in Idaho, Oregon

Scientists say a $67 million rehabilitation effort following a wildfire in southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon is starting off well thanks to good precipitation over the winter. About $14 million has been spent since October as part of a five-year restoration plan to develop new strategies to combat increasingly destructive rangeland wildfires in the West. "This fire occurred in an area that has a lot of different terrain, different ecotypes," said Cindy Fritz, a natural resource specialist with the Boise District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. "There's a ton of variety out there, and we'll be able to see how our treatments work." She said about half of the $14 million has been spent on seed, and the other half was spent on labor and operating costs. The new wildfire approach ordered by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last year is credited with preventing many small rangeland wildfires from getting big. But the Soda Fire scorched 436 square miles of sagebrush steppe that supports cattle grazing and some 350 species of wildlife, including sage grouse. Jewell's order calls for a "science-based" approach to safeguard greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin. The bird did not receive federal protections under the Endangered Species Act last fall, but various efforts to protect sage grouse habitat have been put in place. Part of that effort is making sagebrush steppe resistant to wildfire and more resilient should a wildfire occur. On-the-ground specifics of how to actually achieve those goals are being tested in the areas scorched by the Soda Fire...more

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