Boise, Idaho – Today, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management released the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin for a 45-day public comment period. This Draft Programmatic EIS analyzes a system of up to 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks to control wildfires within a 223 million-acre area that includes portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.
“The Department of the Interior is dedicated to leveraging all of its assets to reduce wildfire risk and safeguard western communities,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “We look forward to receiving feedback from the public on this effort which promises to make a real difference in reducing the wildfire threat.”
“Wildfires devastate forests, rangeland and communities across Idaho and throughout the West, and without strategic planning they’re likely to continue in the years ahead,” said Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “With this initiative and others like it, we’re working proactively to curb wildfires’ destruction and make it safer and more effective for firefighters to protect people and property.”
Large, unbroken swaths of grasses, brush and other vegetation have provided a continuous supply of fuel for the recent catastrophic rangeland wildfires that have burned across the Great Basin states. The concept behind fuel breaks is to break up or fragment continuous fuels by reducing vegetation in key locations. When a wildfire burns into a fuel break, the flame lengths decrease and its progress slows, making it safer and easier for firefighters to control. The fuel breaks would be strategically placed along roads and rights-of-way on BLM-administered lands.
Tools used to create fuel breaks could include brown strips - areas where all vegetation has been removed; green strips - areas where vegetation that is more flammable has been replaced with less flammable vegetation; and mowing or targeted grazing depending on the locations and vegetation. BLM developed four alternatives, including the No Action Alternative, based on comments received during the initial scoping period.
The proposed treatments are part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct DOI and Department of Agriculture agencies to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.
The preferred alternative identified in the Draft Programmatic EIS would create up to 11,000 miles of new fuel breaks within a 223 million-acre area that includes portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah. Fuel breaks would be reseeded, using both native and non-native plant species throughout the project area.
“Fuel breaks have proven to be very effective in slowing rangeland wildfires, making them easier and safer for wildland firefighters to control,” said John Ruhs, State Director for BLM Idaho, which is hosting the Great Basin Fuel Breaks EIS Team. “We believe that creating a system of fuel breaks will help us enhance and improve our working landscapes.”
The BLM is seeking public input to ensure that all aspects of developing a system of fuel breaks are analyzed. The BLM will accept written comments on the Draft Programmatic EIS and will hold a series of public meetings to gather public comment.
Public meetings will be held from 5-7 p.m. at the following locations:
An electronic copy of the Draft Programmatic EIS and associated documents is available on the BLM Land Use Planning and NEPA register. For comments to be considered, they must be received by the BLM no later than midnight MST on August 5, 2019.
Prior to including your phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your written comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can request we withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
In 2018, the Department of the Interior worked closely with partners on 2,500 treatment projects to remove excess burnable vegetation on more than 1.2 million acres of DOI- and tribally-managed lands. Another 170,000 acres were managed for resource purposes. These efforts helped to reduce wildfire risk in some of the most fire-prone areas of the country.
The DOI continues to be the leader in the research, development, and practical deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, on wildland fire management operations. With the largest drone program outside of the Department of Defense, the DOI uses drones to detect hotspots around fires, improve mapping, and monitor fire operations for improved safety. In 2018, the DOI conducted 1,552 drone missions on 200 individual wildfires, doubling last year’s total.
In 2019, the DOI plans to deploy nearly 4,500 firefighting personnel, 500 tribal firefighters, 151 smokejumpers, 18 interagency hotshot crews and 4 Tribal hotshot crews. Firefighters will have over 600 pieces of specialized equipment available for use, including engines, water tenders, bulldozers, and other equipment. Aviation assets play a critical role in efforts to manage wildfires, and the DOI will have access to 23 single engine air tankers, 6 water scoopers, 41 Type 1, 2 and 3 helicopters, and a number of other aviation resources.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a series of interactive online maps designed to promote climbing and other recreational opportunities on BLM-managed public lands. Developed in cooperation with Access Fund and Mountain Project, the maps allow individuals to easily plan exciting climbing experiences at sites around the western United States.
“The Trump Administration is committed to expanding and promoting the untold number of recreational opportunities for Americans to enjoy on public lands," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "We have some of the best rock climbing sites in the world, and I hope that this new map can help to further highlight these locations and encourage more outdoor enthusiasts to explore our great outdoors.”
“The BLM is proud to share these maps and promote access to some of the world’s best climbing areas,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Casey Hammond, exercising the authority of the BLM Director. “We are committed to expanding recreational opportunities on public lands for all Americans, and these interactive maps provide a great tool for folks to further explore the great outdoors.”
Now climbers can pull information about specific BLM-managed climbing areas through a centralized online tool while on the go. The maps, available at https://arcg.is/1SP18f, include useful site information such as photos, season of use, area characteristics, and difficulty levels. Visitors can also find a number of nearby attractions for each climbing site.
“The BLM manages some of the most iconic climbing destinations in the United States,” said Katie Goodwin, Policy Analyst at Access Fund. “This project has been part of an exciting collaborative effort between Access Fund, Mountain Project, and the BLM, and we look forward to our continued work to manage and promote America's cherished climbing destinations.”
“BLM-managed climbing areas hold some of the country’s best opportunities for people to learn about climbing and expand their skills,” said Matt Wade, Advocacy and Policy Director at the American Mountain Guides Association. “The new interactive online maps just released by the BLM will help more Americans access these areas and visit responsibly.”
BLM-managed public lands represent the largest acreage available for recreation in America. About 67 million visits are made annually to these public lands and waters, supporting more than 47,000 jobs nationwide and contributing almost $7 billion to the country’s economy.
The BLM invites the public to visit one or more of the featured climbing destinations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The climbing area maps can be found at https://arcg.is/1SP18f.
Background on Great Outdoors Month
President George W. Bush initially proclaimed Great Outdoors Week in 2001 and 2002. In 2004, he issued June as Great Outdoors Month, and it has been proclaimed every year since. In 2017 and 2018, President Trump proclaimed the need to improve upon the management of public lands through public-private partnerships and the importance of expanding hunting and fishing rights at national wildlife refuges across the country. In accordance with this directive, the Department of the Interior has expanded hunting and fishing access, most recently proposing a 1.4 million acre expansion nationwide. To view this year’s Great Outdoors Month proclamation from President Trump, click here.