Letters from the West

Andrus Center hosts Western weed summit

A sagebrush survives the Soda Fire in Owyhee County where much of the area burned already had lots of cheatgrass. Bureau of Land Management, state crews and ranchers are planting before the wonter comes hoping to jump start the rehabilitation.
A sagebrush survives the Soda Fire in Owyhee County where much of the area burned already had lots of cheatgrass. Bureau of Land Management, state crews and ranchers are planting before the wonter comes hoping to jump start the rehabilitation. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Crews are planting seed and rehabilitating the landscape where the Soda Fire burned thousands of acres for sage grouse habitat in Owyhee County this summer as a part of a coordinated effort across the West to combat invasive species like cheat grass that made the fire even more destructive.

Previously, efforts to address the invasive issue have been piecemeal with little coordination or sustained funding. This month the Andrus Center for Public Policy and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies are hosting a Western Invasive Weed Summit from Nov. 17-19 at the Wyndham Garden Airport Hotel at 3300 S Vista. The goal of the summit is to develop a plan for consistent and appropriate implementation of existing mandates, to identify gaps in law and policy, and to develop recommendations for securing adequate and consistent program funding at local, state and federal levels.

“The need for this Invasive Weed Summit is never more urgent, given the wildfires this year in Idaho,” said Virgil Moore, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “The link between invasive species and wildfires in the Great Basin is undeniable."

Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice M. Schneider will be a keynote speaker, providing an update from a national perspective.

Other attendees include national, state and local representatives from Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Services, Department of Agriculture, state wildlife agencies, local weed management organizations, cattlemen, and non-governmental organizations. Conservationists, scholars, agency representatives, and ranchers from nine western states will be represented.

Moore has been the lead for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in collaboration with 11 states and the federal government in the development of a plan to protect sage grouse. He said the management problems in the other western states caused by invasive species go beyond sage grouse and fire are just as significant and need immediate and coordinated action.

“I’m hopeful the Summit will be the catalyst to develop an effective public-private plan to properly manage invasive weeds in the West,” he said.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker

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