Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will tour the Soda Fire rehabilitation project in Idaho and Oregon Tuesday and make an announcement on funding to increase wildfire resilience across the country.
Jewell, who issued an order in 2015 aimed at protecting sage grouse habitat from fire, will get an update on its implementation and the 2016 fire outlook. The order calls for the development of a science-based strategy to reduce the size, severity and cost of rangeland fires; slow the spread of cheat grass and other invasive species; and position fire trucks, water carriers and other firefighting equipment throughout sage grouse habit to speed the response.
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Jewell’s trip comes as several scientists have criticized the rehabilitation effort’s reliance on drill seeding and the use of herbicide in some areas of the 280,000-acre Soda Fire. The 2015 fire caused the most significant loss of sage-grouse habitat in a single fire season, burning portions of more than 40 grazing allotments, popular motorized and non-motorized trails and more than 400 square miles of wildlife habitat.
Last week, Jewell met with federal firefighting managers from across the government at the White House as President Obama issued an executive order on building in what is known as the wildland-urban interface near homes and communities. As fire seasons become hotter, drier and longer. Jewell called for greater collaborative action to enhance community resilience against these risks and strengthen federal firefighter safety and preparedness.