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BLM California News.bytes
News.Bytes Extra, Issue 635

BLM-CA Leads Interagency Effort to Protect 
Sage-Grouse Habitat During Bodie Fire

While fire is typically fought aggressively in sagebrush habitats, firefighting efforts on the Bodie Fire last week got an extra boost when the BLM-CA Bishop Field Office coordinated an interagency effort to help protect this critical resource. The fire, which began on July 18, 2014, due to a lightning strike, enlisted the help of 200 firefighters as part of the suppression response including four Interagency Hotshot Crews, two hand crews, two strike teams of engines, three water tenders, a helicopter, a heli-tanker and air attack. Crews represented the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service and Cal Fire.

An airtanker drops fire retardant on the Bodie Fire burning on a sage covered hillsdie. BLM photo
Fire retardant drop on the Bodie Fire. (Photo by Kipp Morrill/BLM)

In addition to calling in extra resources for suppression efforts, the fire implemented a specialized management strategy designed to protect important vegetation islands within the fire perimeter. These islands provide more robust re-seeding opportunities post-fire than typical fuel reduction suppression tactics. This type of specialized response is a critical component of habitat conservation in the area, which is characterized by large expanses of sagebrush steppe and is home to a wide diversity of wildlife including the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of greater sage-grouse.

Photo of sage grouse habitat project in the Bishop Field Office area. BLM photo
 Islands of sagebrush protected in the Bodie Fire. (Photo by BLM) 

Sage grouse. BLM photo
Sage grouse (Photo by BLM)

While fire is a natural component of functioning sagebrush systems, too much fire can lead to significant habitat loss. Sagebrush communities can take decades to recover after a wildfire, therefore uncontrolled fires can dramatically decrease the amount of habitat available for wildlife dependent on sagebrush.

BLM-CA has had success in the past with this type of strategy. In the Spring Peak Fire of 2013, and the Indian Fire of 2012, radio collared sage-grouse were documented nesting in the sagebrush islands or fingers protected during suppression efforts after the fire. Several sage-grouse were observed with their young (broods) in the burned areas that border the islands. These burned areas provide grasses and forbs that can both be eaten by sage-grouse and that provide habitat for insects that are eaten by sage-grouse. 

Spring flowers bloom in the forefront with stunning view of Bodie Hills in the background. Photo by Bob Wick/BLM
Bodie Hills in the Spring: sage-grouse habitat in the Bodie Hills  
(Photo by Bob Wick/BLM)

The BLM recently committed 6.5 million dollars to the conservation of the Bi-State DPS and managing wildfire to either minimize adverse impacts or to benefit sage-grouse is a part of that commitment. While this commitment was made for the Bi-State DPS, conserving sagebrush habitat is good for other species like the pygmy rabbit, pronghorn and mule deer.

Thanks to help from our partners, the Bodie Fire was 100% contained at 93 acres on July 23, 2014.


-- Sherri Lisius, Wildlife Biologist, Bishop Field Office (July 2014)

BLM California News.bytes, Issue 635 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page .

Last updated: 07-30-2014