Letters From the West

Simpson urges BLM to address fire threat to sage grouse

simpsonIdaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson chastised the Bureau of Land Management for cutting its budget for fire prevention at the same time it is seeking to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list.

“It seems that the agency is looking mostly at limiting existing uses rather than controlling invasives like cheat grass and preventing wildfires,” Simpson said. “In fact, your budget decreases funding for hazardous fuels removal.”

Simpson, chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, questioned BLM Principle Deputy Director Neil Kornze on grazing, sage-grouse, and the impact of litigation on the agency.

“Last year’s fire season shows us that no matter how much we limit existing uses of public lands, wildfires could easily be the nail in the coffin for sage grouse listing.,” Simpson said. “This is a top priority for me—and we need to work together on a real solution.”

Last year two million acres of top sage grouse habitat burned in wildfires in Oregon, Idaho and Nevada.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West