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Posts tagged: fire prevention

Senators say nation’s wildfire prevention system needs ‘bold reforms’

Idaho's two GOP senators joined with Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden today to launch a new bipartisan push to use the fall budget negotiations in Congress to reform the way the nation funds wildfire prevention. “In my view, the fires that are ripping their way through Oregon, Idaho, California and much of the West are proof that the federal government’s policy for fire prevention is broken,” Wyden declared in a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. That’s because it taps fire prevention funds to fight raging fires, landing the nation in a vicious circle as it does less prevention, he said.

“And I say that given the heroic efforts that have been made by our firefighters,” Wyden said. “The reality is simple: For western members of Congress in the House and the Senate, there is no higher priority this fall than fixing this broken system.”

Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, on which Risch also serves; Crapo and Wyden both serve on the budget committee. Wyden quipped that 3 percent of the U.S. Senate is already on board with the new push – the three of them – and said they’ve also gotten enthusiastic  support from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been working to make sure the Forest Service is first in line for seven tanker plans that should become available from the military this month to boost firefighting efforts.

Wyden said there’s “no better time to bring about these changes than this fall,” as Congress grapples with the budget sequester, the need to raise the debt ceiling and the end of the fiscal year. “This brings front and center the debate about what our priorities are and what our choices are,” he said; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. 

Stage I fire restrictions imposed in Treasure Valley, west-central mountains

Stage I fire restrictions have been issued for the Treasure Valley and the West Central Mountains starting this Thursday, according to the BLM’s Idaho Interagency Fire Restrictions website. That means, for those two zones, both campfires and smoking are banned outside of enclosed buildings, vehicles or developed recreation sites. Violations are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to a year in prison.

The restrictions apply on all private, state, and BLM-protected lands outside incorporated city limits within Ada, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington counties, and portions of Idaho, Adams, Valley, Custer, Elmore, Camas and Blaine counties; all Boise National Forest lands within Boise, Elmore, Gem and Ada counties, and a portion of Valley County; all Payette National Forest lands (excluding the Frank Church Wilderness) within Adams, Washington and portions of Idaho and Valley Counties;  and all Sawtooth National Forest lands within Elmore and Camas counties, and portions of Blaine and Custer counties.

National wildfire prevention, restoration initiative to include Boise River Basin

The U.S. secretaries of Agriculture and Interior were in Colorado today to launch the first of six pilot projects designed to protect the nation’s water supply from increased wildfire risk, and one of the projects is targeted for the Boise River drainage upstream of Boise. That’s where the destructive Trinity Ridge Fire in the Boise National Forest charred 220 square miles last summer; federal officials say increased erosion and sedimentation from the giant wildfire could affect Arrowrock Reservoir, Anderson Ranch Reservoir and more.

The Colorado project, announced at Horsetooth Reservoir outside Ft. Collins, is in the area affected by the destructive High Park Fire in June of 2012; plans there include forest thinning, prescribed fire and other forest health treatments to reduce wildfire risk; projects to reduce post-fire erosion and sedimentation; and restoration efforts on burned land including tree planting and other habitat improvement. Overall, the project, dubbed the Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, also will include pilot projects in Arizona, California, Washington (Yakima Basin) and Montana (Horsethief Reservoir/Flathead River).

“In the West, more than 40 Reclamation dams and facilities are on or downstream from Forest Service lands where drier, hotter weather has exacerbated the risk of wildfire,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. “This partnership can serve as a model for the West when it comes to collaborative and targeted fire threat reduction and restoration efforts to protect our critical water supplies.” Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the initiative is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan; click below for a report on the announcement from the AP in Denver.

By the way, the photo above, taken by Chris Lee, shows windsurfer Jim Tighe sailing across Lucky Peak reservoir on the Boise River on Tuesday morning, as wildfire smoke rolled in from fires in the hills above.

Otter films ads promoting fire safety, forest thinning

In a new public service TV ad sponsored by the state Department of Lands and the U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is shown on a ladder raking pine needles off the roof of his Pine, Idaho cabin, standing on a porch roof pruning low-hanging branches, and more as he urges Idahoans who live in the wildland-urban interface to “get defensive” and reduce wildfire risk to their homes. “Join me in being firewise,” the governor says in the ad. “Learn more at idahofirewise.org.” That website, sponsored by an array of agencies and organizations, is aimed at educating Idahoans about wildfire and promoting “firewise communities.”

The ad was filmed at Otter’s cabin, in an area that was threatened by last summer’s massive Trinity Ridge Fire. Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary, who was at the filming, said the 71-year-old governor seemed at-ease with the feats he performed, “although he did admit he doesn't like heights.” Hanian said, “He was comfortable - I wasn't. It made me nervous.”

A second ad, which shows a cowboy-hatted, shiny-belt-buckled Otter standing in the forest, advocates more thinning projects in national forests, saying, “From a distance, national forests may look beautiful, but 15 million acres of federal forests in Idaho are overgrown, unhealthy and prone to catastrophic fire. Widfires threaten lives, destroy property and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. They pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink, and they harm wildlife habitat. Reducing fuels is the ONLY thing we can do to change all that. It’s time to thin the threat. Show your support. Learn more at idahoforests.org.”

That’s the website of the Idaho Forest Products Commission, which sponsored the second spot. Both ads are being offered to Idaho TV and radio stations to run during the fire season, to promote wildfire safety and prevention. “Idaho’s fire seasons are getting worse,” Otter said in a statement.  “The PSAs remind Idahoans this is the time to reduce the threat of wildfire by getting defensive about their properties and supporting thinning in dense, overcrowded national forests.” You can see both ads here, under the heading, “For the Media and the Public.”

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About this blog

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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