Secretary Jewell wants to reduce the frequency and intensity of rangeland fires

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today issued a Secretarial Order calling for a comprehensive science-based strategy to address the more frequent and intense wildfires that are damaging vital sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands, particularly in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

The strategy will begin to be implemented during the 2015 fire season. Goals include reducing the size, severity and cost of rangeland fires, addressing the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species, and positioning wildland fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response.

“Targeted action is urgently needed to conserve habitat for the greater sage-grouse and other wildlife in the Great Basin, as well as to maintain ranching and recreation economies that depend on sagebrush landscapes,” said Secretary Jewell. “The Secretarial Order further demonstrates our strong commitment to work with our federal, state, tribal and community partners to reduce the likelihood and severity of rangeland fire, stem the spread of invasive species, and restore the health and resilience of sagebrush ecosystems.”

The purpose of the order is to establish enhanced policies and strategies for preventing and suppressing rangeland fire and for restoring sagebrush landscapes impacted by fire across the West. These actions are essential for conserving habitat for the greater sage-grouse as well as other wildlife species and economic activity, such as ranching and recreation, associated with the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem in the Great Basin region. This effort will build upon the experience and success of addressing rangeland fire, and broader wildland fire prevention, suppression and restoration efforts to date, including the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, and ensure improved coordination with local, state, tribal, and regional efforts to address the threat of rangeland fire at a landscape-level.

Complete text of the order.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Secretary Jewell wants to reduce the frequency and intensity of rangeland fires”

  1. The science is simple.
    Quick, efficient, overwhelming response by firefighting resources keep fires small, maintaining the habitat . On nearly all BLM land (the sage/grass particularly) this means launching aerial resources to locate, size up and if capable engage while ground resources make their way in. If a SEAT gets to a single tree, gives the exact location, throws a load of retardant down to contain until a Type 4 can arrive to control, that was a good use of resources and tax payer money. Nearly every 1000, 10,000, 100,000 acre fire started with the single tree. I’ve seen too many duty officers hem and haw about sending aircraft to a smoke report while they wait for the size up from an engine two hours out, always siting “costs” in their justification. Sure, an air attack and a heavy helicopter might seem like a lot of dollars per acre on say a five acre fire, but 10 heavy airtanker drops and four additional helicopters cost way more when that same fire grows to 8,000 acres. Of course the costs of lost habitat and rehabilitation is never factored into those initial attack decisions either.
    You can not overspend on initial attack.

    1. The right resources at the right place at the right time. Easy science until multiple lightning stikes ignite fires all over the coverage area, and then you have only 75% (or less) of the right resources………..etc.
      The patterns from lightning storms over many decades show that the number of starts often overwhelms the available recources (think Eastern Oregon in 1986, NorCal/So Oregon in 1987, Montana’s Bitterroot in 2000).


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