Idaho is among 12 states that will share $10 million from the Interior Department, which will be used to keep the threat of wildfire to a minimum in sensitive sage grouse habitat.
The sage grouse is the subject of an unparalleled cross state conservation effort, to save the bird and keep it off the endangered species list. The award comes after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's visit to Boise in May when she announced a range-wide plan to make saving the sage grouse habitat a priority during a fire.
Lance Okeson is with the Bureau of Land Management in Boise. His district was awarded $166,000 to cut down dense and invasive conifer trees like junipers. The focus will be on half a million acres in the southwest corner of the state.
"This project is really important because what we're doing is we're focusing on the best of the best habitat [for sage grouse]," says Okeson. "[I]f we start early before the trees get very big... it's really cheap and it's really effective. And it's easy to maintain those habitats."
Okeson says besides the fact that trees are fuel for wildfire, they also provide a perch for predators that eat sage grouse. But he says sage grouse return quickly after the plants are removed, giving land managers a quick fix in a complicated conservation story.
He says the district will need more money to continue this work past next year.
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