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Posts tagged: Sally Jewell

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.

New interior secretary reaches out to tribes

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: RENO, Nev. (AP) — Sally Jewell made an emotional pledge in her first address to Indian Country as the 51st U.S. Interior secretary, saying she'll help right past wrongs against Native Americans and work with tribes “nation-to-nation” to protect their sovereignty. Jewell fought back tears and paused to compose herself during remarks Thursday in Reno, Nev., to about 300 delegates of the National Congress of American Indians. The casino-ballroom audience gave her a standing ovation. The ex-outdoor retail executive from Seattle became secretary in April. She told delegates the U.S. government doesn't have a proud legacy when it comes to upholding promises to native people. She said she cannot “reverse all of that” in four years, but she is determined to make important progress and help tribes become more economically independent.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Scott Sonner.

With budget cuts hitting firefighting efforts, Jewell calls on folks to get ‘fire-wise’

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today’s visit by the secretaries of the departments of Interior and Agriculture to NIFC, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, where the two said sequestration and other federal budget cuts will hit hard just as a “difficult” fire season looms for the nation.

New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on citizens and communities to be “fire-wise” and take steps to protect their homes, particularly those in or near the woods or wildlands, from burning in a wildfire. “We as private citizens … play an important role,” she said, “especially in these areas where we want to live, have our cabins up in the mountains, and they are oftentimes in harm’s way.” Jewell said people need to create defensible space around homes or cabins, clear brush, trees and flammable materials, and help their neighbors do the same. “I really encourage you to do that,” she said.

This year’s fire season already has seen 13,000 fires start, but that’s actually a low number – the lowest in the last 10 years. That’s mainly because there’s been ample rain and snow across the eastern United States, limiting the fires that otherwise would normally have ignited by now in the Southeast.

But this year is expected to see above-normal risk in parts of the west, particularly the southwest, due to precipitation that’s run far below normal. Southern California has gotten only a quarter of its normal precipitation so far this year. NIFC officials said the wildfire season in West Coast states is expected to start a month earlier than normal this year as a result; fires already have been burning in southern California and even in southern Idaho.

Budget cuts hit as ‘difficult’ fire season looms

With a “difficult” fire season looming, firefighters are facing budget cuts that will result in 500 fewer firefighters for the Forest Service alone and 50 fewer engines available, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said this morning in a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. “We’re going to be faced obviously with a difficult fire season, make no mistake about that,” he said. “The resources are limited. Our budgets have obviously been constrained.”

Other agencies also are facing cuts. New Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who toured NIFC yesterday and today, said, “We will fight the fires and we will do them safely, but the resources will go to suppression, which is not ideal. … What you’re not doing is putting the resources in place to thoughtfully manage the landscapes for the future.” That means things like replanting and efforts to reduce hazardous fuels will suffer. “If we have a really tough season, we … may bring in more contract resources,” Jewell said. “We’ll have to take it out of other parts of our budget which are also struggling. We may be making decisions in the short run to take care of fires but in the long run not setting ourselves up for success.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said if catastrophic fires are burning in August and sufficient resources aren’t available, he believes Congress would come through with emergency funding. Vilsack responded with a chuckle, “You get that down? Can you send that to me?

Vilsack said in addition to the 5 percent sequestration cut that the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture took, “Congress added on that another 2 percent.” Making those cuts this far into the fiscal year, he said, means they cut “in essence 15 percent of your remaining money.”

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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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