Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation
The Soda Fire: Huge Flaming Deluge!
The Soda Fire started on August 10, intensely burning nearly 280,000 acres – more than 400 square miles -- of federal, state, and private lands in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. This fire was the largest to threaten greater sage-grouse habitat throughout the 2015 fire season.
The fire has greatly impacted the sagebrush-steppe landscape that supports native wildlife, outdoor recreation, and other important values. Almost all of the burned area is habitat for the greater sage-grouse, with more than 50,000 acres designated by BLM as Priority Habitat Management Area (PHMA) for the species. The fire also had a devastating impact to ranchers who lost livestock and other property on both federal and private land.
Rehabilitate to Mitigate
The burned area must be immediately stabilized and rehabilitated to mitigate threats. An Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (ESR) team of more than 40 natural resource specialists has assessed damage and threats to life, property, and resources on BLM-managed lands in both Idaho and Oregon.
An ESR plan has been developed and stabilization and rehabilitation efforts began in Fall 2015. This is a massive undertaking with high stakes for all public land uses, including recreation, grazing and sage-grouse habitat. This will be a multi-year rehabilitation endeavor that will involve adaptive management; meaning that we will consistently adjust our tactics as we go, working to ensure the success of this unprecedented effort well into the future.
Beat the Cheat!
An identified threat to natural resources is the rapid invasion and spread of invasive plants, especially cheatgrass and medusahead. We are fighting cheatgrass and other invasives by stabilizing the burned area, then planting desirable grasses, forbs and brush. This will not only combat invasive weeds, it will assist the area in recovering back to sagebrush steppe, which will in turn attract native wildlife, such as greater sage-grouse, deer, elk and hundreds of other sagebrush steppe species.
Inspire Less Fire!
Because a mature stand of sagebrush takes decades to reestablish, it is important to reduce the fire frequency and fire size in the Soda Fire burned area, which involves designing fuel break treatments and improving access for fire suppression equipment and resources. We plan to implement fuel breaks as we work on rehabilitation plans, so we can improve the odds that this area will make a full recovery!
|The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on a proposed process which will be used to administer the eventual resumption of permitted livestock grazing on BLM lands affected by the 2015 Soda Fire. This fire burned 280,000 acres, primarily in the Owyhee Mountains, and impacted 41 grazing allotments. Stabilization and recovery work in the burned area is underway. Livestock grazing will be interrupted for at least two growing seasons while forage and landscapes recover. |
In general, the process we are developing includes the following steps: (a) permittees voluntarily shift to non-use of their allotments via agreements with the BLM; (b) BLM implements recovery work and performs monitoring to measure the progress of recovery treatments; and (c) the resumption of grazing will be evaluated after two growing seasons have passed and will depend on recovery having adequately met objectives.
A sample copy of a grazing closure agreement is here. The objectives used to measure recovery may be viewed here. These documents are drafts and are posted for the purposes of eliciting comment. A matrix showing specific grazing responses to recovery treatments is here.
Public comment on the proposed process will be accepted until March 3, 2016. Comments can be emailed to BLM_ID_OwyheeOffice@blm.gov, or hand-delivered or mailed to: Owyhee Field Office; 20 First Avenue West; Marsing, Idaho 83639. The Owyhee Field Office will accept any comments and work with the Malheur Field Office and ES&R team to address them.