Ranchers in Mountain Home have formed Idaho's first Rangeland Fire Protection Association to assist the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Department of Lands in fighting range fires in one of the most fire-prone areas of the state.
Idaho Department of Lands officials encourage ranchers and private landowners elsewhere in southern Idaho to form a similar organizations to help reduce the high incidence of range fires. The region has burned repeatedly over the last three decades. Having an association allows ranchers to assist the BLM fighting fires.
"In the United States, the most fires are right here, they burn the most ground," notes Wes Wootan, an Elmore County commissioner and Glenns Ferry farmer who was involved in the effort. "Because of that, it's proactive for us to put something together that addresses the issue of first response."
Over the years, ranchers have tried to help the BLM fight range fires on public lands. But in recent times, federal policy has prohibited ranchers from fighting fires on public lands for safety and liability reasons.
So far in the summer of 2012, 227 man-caused and lightning-caused range fires have occurred in southern Idaho, burning a total of 523,095 acres of public and private land, according to the BLM.