Secretary Jewell Announces Over $4 Million to Protect Sagebrush Lands Threatened by Rangeland Fire

Projects in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon Set to Reduce Fire Risk as Part of New Program

4/29/2015
Last edited 9/29/2021


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced more than $4 million in projects the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will implement to reduce the threat of rangeland fire and protect sagebrush habitat in the Great Basin region. The projects in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon will support the Interior Department's science-based strategy to address the more frequent and intense wildfires that are damaging sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands.

“This funding will launch a number of projects that are ready to begin as we approach a potentially active 2015 wildfire season in the Great Basin, where a good portion of the remaining sage-steppe exists,” said Secretary Jewell. “Every task we complete puts us closer to conserving the sage-grouse, sage-steppe, and western rangelands that depend on these resources. These projects will not only improve rangeland health, but also help mitigate the risks to local economies that depend on healthy lands.”

The funding is part of the BLM's newly-established Fire and Invasives Assessment Tool (FIAT) program dedicated to identifying BLM projects on federal land that can address threats from wildfires, invasive annual grasses, and conifer encroachment to sage-grouse and sagebrush steppe landscapes in the Great Basin region.

“The BLM is targeting our existing resources to address the biggest threats to the West's most productive sage-grouse habitat,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “By strategically focusing our fire prevention and restoration efforts, we are laying the foundation for long-term conservation of the healthy rangelands that help define and sustain the West and its people.”

The projects involve vegetation treatments, such as removing Juniper trees that are encroaching on sagebrush habitat; planting sagebrush and seeding perennial native grasses; and building fuel breaks to prevent large-scale wildfires. Projects will consider tribal and cultural values prior to implementation. The funds will also be used to plan future projects and monitor ongoing work and ecosystem conditions.

  • Idaho will receive $1.78 million for a variety of treatment projects, including one that will clear fuel breaks along major transportation corridors in Southwest Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. The fuel breaks will assist firefighters in reducing the threat of wildfires threatening sagebrush habitat.
  • Nevada will receive $638,000 for projects, such as mowing along roadways to create fuel breaks and seeding native plants for sagebrush habitat improvement. The funding also allows for treatment of invasive cheatgrass.
  • Utah will receive $811,000 to fund numerous sagebrush habitat restoration efforts, including the Parker Front project to remove Juniper stands and seed native plants and grasses. This funding will support a larger ongoing partnership with the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative, which has already contributed $70,000 to treat 2,000 acres of priority habitat.
  • Oregon will receive $1.03 million for prescribed fire, including work in the South Warner project to treat encroaching Juniper stands while protecting existing sagebrush habitat. The BLM plans to use additional sagebrush restoration techniques for this project, such as mechanical thinning of Juniper and planting native grasses in areas lacking adequate grass understory.

The projects are expected to benefit the many Tribal and local communities, ranchers, sportsmen, and others who depend on these lands and resources to sustain their way of life.

Rangeland fire and the spread of non-native grasses pose a particular threat to the greater sage-grouse, a bird that has lost more than half of its habitat, which once covered 290 million acres across the West. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering whether protections under the Endangered Species Act are warranted.

The deteriorating health of the sagebrush habitat and the greater sage-grouse has sparked an unprecedented, collaborative federal-state partnership. The three-pronged approach includes strong federal conservation plans, strong conservation plans for state and private lands, and an effective strategy to reduce rangeland fire risk.

Secretarial Order 3336, released in January 2015, called for the development of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the size, severity and cost of rangeland fires; address the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species; and position wildland fire management resources for more effective rangeland fire response. The initial report that outlined immediate action for the 2015 fire season was released in March. The second, long-term report will be released in May.

More information on the ongoing, collaborative work to conserve the sagebrush landscape is available at www.blm.gov/sagegrouse.

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