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.
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.
Islands of sagebrush protected in the Bodie Fire. (Photo by BLM)
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.
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)
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