Secretary Jewell Announces $10 Million for Wildfire Resilience in the West

Secretary Jewell learns from Jeremy Maestas how to lop juniper to improve sage grouse habitat.

May 24, 2016

Photo: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell learns from SGI’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Specialist Jeremy Maestas how to lop juniper to improve sage grouse habitat.

New funds complement the Sage Grouse Initiative’s work to remove conifers and restore sagebrush habitat

wildfire west ABC news

Wildfire season in the West is growing longer and more active.

Today in Boise, Idaho, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is announcing that $10 million will be available for projects that help Western landscapes bounce back after wildfires. These new funds will complement the Sage Grouse Initiative’s 2.0 Investment Strategy, which prioritizes removing invasive conifers, as well as working cooperatively to implement the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ‘Fire and Invasive Assessment Tool.’

The projects announced by Secretary Jewell include about $500,000 for BLM to remove invasive juniper trees that have grown after major fires in Southwest Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Conifer removal benefits sage grouse, which thrive in open, treeless habitat.

As the climate in the West gets hotter and drier, fire seasons grow longer and more active. Snowpack in many states is melting faster than ever this year, which has far-reaching impacts on agriculture, communities, fish, and wildlife.

Today’s funding announcement follows last year’s order issued by Secretary Jewell aimed at protecting sage grouse habitat from the impacts of wildfire. The order calls for the development of a science-based strategy to reduce the size, severity and cost of rangeland fires; slow the spread of cheat grass and other invasive species; and position fire trucks, water carriers and other firefighting equipment throughout sage grouse habit to speed the response.

The NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative is committed to working cooperatively with public agencies, nonprofits, and private landowners to ensure that the sagebrush sea — and all of the people and wildlife it supports — is prepared and resilient in the face of wildfire.

A recent publication produced collaboratively with the BLM, is one step in that direction. This new NRCS resource explains how fuel breaks can minimize the risk and impacts of megafires in sage grouse country.

Download the NRCS Technical Note: Fuel Breaks to Reduce Large Wildfire Impacts in Sagebrush Ecosystems

Read the Dept. of Interior Press Release: Secretary Jewell Leads Discussion on Mitigating Risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface

The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.