BLM to develop EISs for fuel breaks and fuel reduction

The programmatic Environmental Impact Statements would streamline approvals for projects

fuel break BLM fire wildfire

Above: A fuel break created along a road by mowing. BLM photo.

(Originally published at 9:55 a.m. MDT December 30, 2017)

In May the U.S. Geological Survey began an effort to study fuel breaks in the Great Basin to evaluate their effectiveness as well as the ecological costs and benefits. On December 22 the Bureau of Land Management announced the agency is proposing to develop two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for BLM lands in the states of Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, California, Utah, and Washington. One will cover the construction of fuel breaks while the other is for fuels reduction and rangeland restoration.

The process is expected to result in two programmatic EIS documents that would cover projects region-wide to gain efficiencies in subsequent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses. The blanket approval will mean that individual landscape-scale fuel breaks and fuel reduction proposals will only need minor additional environmental reviews to proceed.

Fuel breaks are intended to interrupt the continuity of vegetation making it easier to control or stop the spread of wildfires. There is no guarantee of success since wind-blown burning embers can be lofted hundreds or thousands of feet ahead of a flaming front, crossing the breaks.

fuel break herbicide aerial application
An aircraft sprays herbicide on a BLM fuelbreak. BLM image.

Landscape-scale fuel reduction would slow the spread and reduce the intensity and resistance to control of a wildfire making it easier for firefighters to keep a small fire from becoming a megafire. Another goal of the vegetation modification is to restore the rangelands habitat in order to provide multiple use opportunities for user groups and habitat for plants and animals. The projects are designed to reduce the threat of habitat loss from fires and restore rangeland’s productivity while “supporting the western lifestyle”, the BLM said in a statement.

The public has until February 20, 2018 to submit comments related to the programmatic EISs by any of the following methods:

  • Website: https://go.usa.gov/xnQcG
  • Email: GRSG_PEIS@blm.gov.
  • Fax: 208–373–3805.
  • Mail: Jonathan Beck, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, ID 83709
BLM fuel break
BLM fuel break. BLM photo.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

6 thoughts on “BLM to develop EISs for fuel breaks and fuel reduction”

  1. Sounds like a good start towards ,decreasing Wildfires!
    USFS should also be developing a similar plan ?
    Wonder why BLM land in the State of Montana,was not included ??

  2. Believe it or not in the 70’s and 80’s USFS did allot of Fuel Breaks, I spent many hours behind Fuels Dozer on the Mendo and Sanberdo …….

  3. Hope a reasonably good idea for some/certain places doesn’t become a big excuse to support certain companies in the herbicide industry. The “blanket approval” part of it and “minor additional environmental reviews” sounds very reasonable, but in practice too often ends up regretted at great expense and natural ecosystem un-intended loss afterwards.

  4. There is no information available on the link that was provided – None of the links on the BLM website works. Not very helpful for folks that are interested in commenting if there isn’t any information available on what they are proposing to do.

  5. hooh boy. better follow that one. do some research on the pesticide naled used heavily in 2016 in the US despite the reported track record of the foreign company that owns it and ask why that company is even allowed on any US approved suppliers list.

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