Boise State Professor Tapped To Help Save Sage Grouse Habitat

Jan 7, 2015

A Boise State University professor will help decide the future of fire management on greater sage grouse habitat.

Political science and public policy professor John Freemuth is part of a national group of experts who will report to the new Rangeland Fire Task Force. This week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell created the task force.

Freemuth says the group has been charged with finding a science-based strategy to fight wildfires, while safeguarding the sage grouse and its habitat. “This is a very interesting attempt to rethink how we manage a piece of land, much more holistically," says Freemuth, "putting maybe the resource first, not the various users or activities first.”

Protecting the ecosystem, before personal property, is just one idea Freemuth’s group will examine. Another is turf battles. Freemuth believes government agencies, scientists, and firefighters have to work together, without fighting amongst themselves.

“What are the obstacles to interagency collaboration and cooperation?" he asks. "Don’t let agency turf and traditional ways of thinking unnecessarily hamstring progress on this. It’s too important to look at things just as one does from one’s own agency.”

Freemuth thinks the group’s recommendations won't be ignored. “Eventually there’ll be hell to pay on this issue in a couple of years, and so I think they’re very committed to it.”

Freemuth says if stakeholders and government agencies don’t take action now, it’s likely the sage grouse will be listed as an endangered species and that the West will lose much of its iconic sagebrush landscape to fire.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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