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U.S. Interior Secretary in Idaho to Announce Millions for Fire Suppression

Idaho will receive $500,000 to restore habitat for sage-grouse after recent summers' devastating wildland fires. (twildlife/iStockphoto)
Idaho will receive $500,000 to restore habitat for sage-grouse after recent summers' devastating wildland fires. (twildlife/iStockphoto)
May 24, 2016

BOISE, Idaho - U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is in Boise today to announce $10 million in funding for projects to help Western landscapes bounce back after a wildfire.

The projects include about $500,000 for the Bureau of Land Management to remove invasive juniper trees that have grown after past years' major fires in the Bruneau-Owyhee area of Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, senior conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League, explained the idea is to protect the fragile sage grouse.

"The conifer trees can pose a risk to sage grouse in particular, because raptors and other birds of prey can roost in those trees and then kill the sage grouse," he said. "So, a lot of this is really targeted around restoration of sage-grouse habitat."

Secretary Jewell is also touring the Soda Mountain Fire Rehabilitation site, where 280,000 acres of sage-grouse habitat burned in a wildfire last year.

The new influx of money will fund the second year of fire resilience efforts in ten locations, mostly in Western states.

Oppenheimer stressed that climate change means Idaho has to be prepared to fight more fires on public lands.

"Scientists confirm that Idaho is growing hotter and drier, and fire seasons are growing longer and more active. Snowpacks are smaller and they're melting faster, with dramatic impacts for our streams, fisheries and wildlife," he said. "We are encouraged that Secretary Jewell has designated an additional $10 million to increase resilience to fire."

The Interior Secretary is also calling on Congress to change the way the federal government allocates funding for wildland firefighting, so that other parts of the budget won't have to be raided to cover fire emergencies.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - ID