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Bad fire year statewide, not so bad on state-protected lands…

 State Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz distributed a laminated card to lawmakers showing the acreage burned in wildfires in Idaho from 1983 to 2012, plus in the catastrophic fire year of 1910. 2012, at 1.75 million acres burned, was almost as high as 1910, but the highest ever was in 2007, when the number of acres that burned exceeded 2 million. 2000 was another really big year, matching 2012 in acres burned.

However, when it came to the 6.2 million acres of land on which the Idaho Department of Lands provides fire protection, 2012 wasn’t a bad year at all, with 4,755 acres burned and 187 fires, both well below the five-year average. In 2007, by comparison, state-protected lands saw 349 fires that burned 68,674 acres.

In 2012, 57 percent of the fires on state-protected lands were human-caused, while 43 percent were lightning-caused.

Asked why state lands fared better than others in 2012, Schultz said, “It’s a lot of things. I think part of it is we actively manage our lands. We harvest timber, we have roads that are accessible.” But, he said, “The rest of it is luck – where the weather is.” Federal land managers have different objectives in managing federal wildlands than the state, Schultz noted. “It kinds of depends on where the starts are and how you deal with it.”

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will begin voting on a series of supplemental appropriations and deficiency warrants on Thursday, including the $6 million in bills that have been run up for fire suppression.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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