Sagebrush

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A new $20 million grant will help three of the state’s top universities study how trout and sagebrush are adapting to changing environmental conditions. 


Suzba / Flickr Creative Commons

Rainbow trout and sagebrush could hold the keys to preserving our iconic western landscape. Idaho’s public universities are partnering to study both species for the next five years.

BLM Boise District

Federal officials are proposing one of the largest ever projects to remove juniper trees to protect habitat for imperiled sage grouse.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Monday that it's taking public comments through Jan. 3 on the plan to eliminate trees from 940 square miles in southwest Idaho.

Experts say juniper trees have expanded to displace sage brush needed by the bird in many places in the West due to fire suppression efforts and other human activities.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Federal officials on Monday released an ambitious wildfire-fighting and restoration plan to protect a wide swath of sagebrush country in the intermountain West that supports cattle ranching and is home to an imperiled bird.

The 139-page plan is essentially a how-to guide that follows Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's five-page order in early 2015 calling for a "science-based" approach to safeguard greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin.

A wildfire burning in grass and sagebrush has scorched about 180 acres in southwest Idaho but is expected to be controlled Monday afternoon.

Fire spokesman Rob Hansen of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says crews responded just before 1 p.m. Sunday to a fire about 15 miles southeast of Murphy.

He says a small air tanker, four engines and two bulldozers participated in getting the fire contained by 10 p.m. Sunday.

Hansen says the fire had the potential to burn a wide area, but quick response by the Grand View Fire Department and then BLM crews helped contain it.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Public lands managers have released an outline for creating a decades-long strategy to combat wildfire-prone invasive weeds considered a main threat to Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems.

The report released Monday by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says piecemeal efforts must be replaced by landscape-wide strategies stretching across Western states.

Officials say without it there will be declines in sage grouse and other species possibly leading to regulatory actions limiting economic growth.

Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation / BLM

Brian Maxfield is a wildlife conservation biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. And he's a bit of a voyeur.

Back in the spring, Maxfield strapped transmitters to about a dozen greater sage grouse in northeastern Utah. His goal? To spy on them.

Each bird’s every move is now a mosaic of color-coded dots on a clipboard he keeps in his pickup. Today, he’s honing in on the blue dot. And he’s worried.

Nick Myatt / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Over the last few months you’ve heard a number of reports about a species of bird that lives in Idaho and 10 other western states. The greater sage grouse is in the spotlight as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides whether the bird merits listing under the Endangered Species Act. If the grouse is listed, it could have devastating effects on the regional economy. 

CJ Buckwalter / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced $10 million for land restoration projects in 13 states in a strategy to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

Jewell said Friday that making land more resilient to fire is essential for vulnerable species and for healthy rangelands, forests and watersheds.

Eight of the states are in the West, with projects in conifer forests and sagebrush rangelands, where wildfires have been especially destructive in the last decade. Sagebrush is also habitat for sage grouse, an imperiled bird under consideration for federal protections.

Bryant Olsen / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released a plan to protect the habitat of a struggling bird species from being destroyed by wildfire.

The new firefighting strategy comes as Western states work to avoid the sage grouse's classification as a threatened or endangered species. Experts say the restrictions that come with protecting the wide-ranging birds could damage the economies of the 11 states where they are found.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to decide Endangered Species Act protections this fall.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho officials have approved a plan to protect habitat for greater sage grouse on state endowment lands as part an effort to avoid a federal listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and four other statewide elected officials on the Idaho Land Board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to adopt the 82-page Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan that details conservation measures developed by the Idaho Department of Lands.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has released the initial plan for a new wildfire-fighting strategy to protect a wide swath of intermountain West sagebrush country that supports cattle ranching and is home to a struggling bird species.

The 27-page report released Tuesday calls for protecting areas most at risk by using veteran crews, rural fire departments and fire protection associations made up of ranchers who can respond quickly. The previous strategy didn't call for specific efforts to protect the habitat.

USFWS

The future of the greater sage grouse, already uncertain, may get even murkier because Congress is considering delaying protections for the Western bird.

Congress is considering a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would keep the federal government from shutting down. A legislative rider in the bill would put the brakes on protecting the bird.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

How many times have you gone on a hike in the Boise foothills and stumbled across an unfamiliar flower? Now, there's a  Field Guide to Plants of the Boise Foothills that fits in your back pocket. 

State, county, city, and federal agencies got together to create this color-coded guide to plants in the city’s backyard.

Ecologist Mike Pellant and Jessica Gardetto, both with the Bureau of Land Management, helped put the guide together.