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Idaho Closer To Enlisting Help From Citizen Rangeland Firefighters

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Aaron Kunz
/
EarthFix

An Idaho legislative committee Tuesday approved a bill to encourage teams of ranchers who would volunteer to fight rangeland fires. 

The first rangeland fire protection association in Idaho formed a year ago in Mountain Home. It allows ranchers to help fight fires alongside firefighters with the Bureau of Land Management.

David Groeschl with the Idaho Department of Lands told lawmakers they could help launch more of these associations by granting them non-profit status.

“I think the ranchers and the BLM are seeing the mutual benefit of being able to cooperatively work together in safe manner,” says Groeschl.

HB93 would give these associations non-profit status and clarifies the process for establishment and operation of such an organization. The non-profit status frees them to use certain equipment, raise funds, and get government training.

Currently, Idaho statute provides authority for the Director of Lands to enter into agreements with both timber protective associations and rangeland fire protection associations. But the process for establishment and operation is aimed at timber protective associations.

Rangeland Fire Protection Associations are distinctly different organizations and this bill will specify the process for establishment and operational standards to address those differences.

The Mountain Home association allows farmers to use their own heavy equipment to ward off rangeland fires. It helps them protect their own land and to work and communicate with BLM firefighters.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter is hoping to give these associations some startup capital. He asked lawmakers to approve $400,000 to help pay for training, equipment and radios in his annual State of the State address in January.

That funding has been wrapped into the Idaho Department of Lands budget which will be taken up by the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee on Feb. 28.