Grass growers are pulling out of the Inland Northwest Field Burning Summit, formed five years ago to craft compromises over field burning.
Stung by criticism from clean air activists and unable to adequately control grass smoke due to poor weather this year, the growers announced Monday they will regroup to examine their practices.
“The summit was begun with very good intentions to bring people together. But it’s become a platform for people from small interest groups to use,” said Martha Dailey, executive secretary of the 450-member Intermountain Grass Growers Association.
The growers’ divorce from the summit follows the resignation in mid-September of the group’s facilitator, Washington State University sociologist Emmett Fiske.
Fiske quit under pressure from the growers, who said he was biased in favor of clean air groups.
Kelsey Gray, a WSU Spokane professor, plans to convene the summit today and ask the remaining members about its future.
“It’s their decision whether they’ll want to continue on,” Gray said.
Other summit members include clean air groups, Washington and Idaho environmental agencies, wheat producers and representatives of the tourism and recreation industry.
The Spokane County burning season ended last week.
The season in North Idaho may continue to the end of this week, Dailey said.
About 80,000 acres in the region are devoted to bluegrass production. Spokane County growers had permits to torch 26,864 acres this year.
“This season was very difficult, weather-wise,” Dailey said.
“The growers feel for their neighbors. They are not cold-hearted money-grubbers. They want to be very careful.”
Meanwhile, Spokane air quality staff members are preparing a report on the grass burning season for the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority board meeting on Thursday.
The agency has received nearly 300 complaints about smoke pollution since grass burning started in mid-August.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BURNING SEASON The Spokane County burning season ended last week. The season in North Idaho may continue to the end of this week.