Wildfires

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well as other federal and state agencies are starting a public information campaign intended to reduce human-caused fires in sagebrush steppe areas in Idaho.

The Idaho office of the BLM in a statement Thursday says efforts will include radio and television announcements, social media postings and a billboard on Interstate 84 between the Broadway and Gowen Field off-ramps in Boise.

The agency says fire helps invasive cheatgrass take over sagebrush steppe areas and eventually outcompetes native plants.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A new rangeland fire management plan is the result of cross-state and federal collaboration that isn't often seen in resource policy. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Idaho earlier this week to present the plan alongside state officials

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a plan to protect the habitat of a struggling bird species from being destroyed by wildfire.

The new firefighting strategy comes as Western states work to avoid the sage grouse's classification as a threatened or endangered species. Experts say the restrictions that come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide Endangered Species Act protections this fall.

 A couple of unseasonably large wildfires in the Northwest are giving crews an early taste of fire season.

United States Forest Service, Mike McMillan / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent report published by the U.S. Forest Service shows that in 1995, 17 percent of the agency's budget went to fighting wildfires. By 2014, those efforts took up 51 percent of the agency's funding.

Aaron Maizlish / Flickr

Federal officials have announced more than $4 million in projects in four states as part of a wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will use the money in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon to counter wildfire threats, invasive grasses and juniper trees encroaching in sagebrush habitat.

Dan Dzurisin / Flickr Creative Commons

Between 2007-2013, the greater sage grouse population declined by 56 percent across 11 states. That's according to a study paid for by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which looked at the sage brush habitat as a whole.

Images taken by the Thematic Mapper sensor onboard Landsat 5. Source: USGS Landsat Missions Gallery, Long Butte, Idaho Fire. / U.S. Department of the Interior / U.S. Geological Survey

More than 7-million acres have burned in Idaho wildfires since 2004, and NASA satellites have captured how some of those fires have changed the regional landscape. 

U.S. Forest Service

State and federal land managers are preparing to burn up to 30,977 acres across southwest Idaho to reduce excessive trees and brush that could contribute to larger wildfires later this year.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Lands are coordinating to manage the intentional fires.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

The 27-page report released Tuesday calls for protecting areas most at risk by using veteran crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond quickly. The previous strategy didn't call for specific efforts to protect the habitat.

Idaho lawmakers had a bit of sticker shock Friday over the state’s firefighting costs.

Tony Morris / Flickr Creative Commons

A Boise State University professor will help decide the future of fire management on greater sage grouse habitat.

Political science and public policy professor John Freemuth is part of a national group of experts who will report to the new Rangeland Fire Task Force. This week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell created the task force.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is calling for a new wildfire-fighting strategy that protects sagebrush country in the intermountain West that supports cattle ranching as well as a struggling bird species.

She issued an order Tuesday seeking a "science-based" strategy that safeguards the greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

Wildfires scorched nearly 1.5 million acres in Oregon, Washington and Idaho this year. And with increased demand for timber from lumber mills, there is a growing market for scorched trees.

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

The directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management say a listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act can be avoided.

Dan Ashe of Fish and Wildlife and Neil Kornze of BLM made the comments Thursday in Boise as some of the nation's top federal land managers and rangeland scientists gathered at a conference to find ways to protect sage grouse habitat from massive wildfires.

In the last decade huge swaths of sage brush range the birds depend on have been destroyed by wildfires that often involve fire-prone invasive plants.

The old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." That was the reaction of a U.S. Forest Service researcher when he rediscovered a trove of landscape panoramas called the Osborne Panoramas.

This summer’s Carlton Complex wildfire was the largest in Washington history. Scores of firefighters battled the inferno in north Central Washington.

U.S. Forest Service

 A slow wildfire season in the U.S. means the Forest Service won’t have to dip into other parts of its budget to cover firefighting expenses. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Tuesday. It’s the first time in three years the agency’s firefighting allotment will cover actual costs.

The Forest Service exceeded its firefighting budget by $505 million last summer, and $440 million the year before.

rancher
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For years there's been a battle raging between Idaho ranchers and the federal government over whether ranchers should be able to fight wildfires.

Ranchers say they've always just gone out there, with their trucks and tanks of water and try to put the fires out themselves. The feds have said, leave it to the pros and don't make yourself a liability.

At times it's almost come close to blows. But now a truce has been struck that could change the way fires are fought every summer.

High costs of wildfires

Wildfire Near Cascade Grows To 75 Acres

Sep 19, 2014
Photo Courtesy Boise National Forest

This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. Sept. 22.

A small wildfire burning southeast of Cascade has grown to 75 acres. The Bull Fire is burning in a remote area on the Boise National Forest.

Forest officials say 115 firefighters are now working on the blaze.

No structures are threatened by the fire, but the forest has closed a handful of trails in the area.

It’s not clear what started the fire, its cause is under investigation.

This story was originally posted at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 19.

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