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July 18, 2014


In Reply Refer To:
6711/9217 (FA-100) P



Instruction Memorandum No. WO IM-2014-114

Expires:  09/30/2015


To:                  All Field Office Officials


From:              Deputy Director for Operations


Subject:           Sage-Grouse Habitat and Wildland Fire Management


Program Areas:  All Renewable Resource and Fire Management Programs


Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes Bureau of Land Management (BLM) guidance for management actions in renewable resource programs, fuels management, fire operations, and emergency stabilization and rehabilitation (ESR) related to habitat protection, conservation, and restoration for all species of sage-grouse (Gunnison and Greater Sage-grouse, including the Bi-State and Columbia Basin distinct population sub-groups).


Policy/Action:  This IM reinforces and enhances Washington Office (WO) IM No. 2013-128 (May 23, 2013), Fire and Aviation IM No. 2012-017 (May 14, 2012), and WO-IM No. 2012-043 (December 22, 2011). This direction is in addition to and does not replace more protective measures in existing land use plans (LUPs).


Firefighter and public safety has been, and continues to be, the BLM’s highest fire management priority.  The management of fire and hazardous fuels in protecting and enhancing sage-grouse habitat is one of the factors that will be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in making a decision regarding whether the Greater Sage-Grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.  Over 50 percent of sage-grouse habitat is located on public lands managed by the BLM.  Protecting, conserving, and restoring sage-grouse habitat is BLM fire management’s highest natural resource objective. 


Wildfire and invasive plants are range-wide threats to sage-grouse habitat and are the primary threats to the sage-grouse populations in the Great Basin.  The BLM’s management responsibilities include taking actions on public lands to control and manage wildfire and invasive plants in order to protect, conserve, and restore sage-grouse habitat. The BLM’s goal is to limit acres burned and damaged within and adjacent to sage-grouse habitat.  The BLM will meet this goal through the certain management actions, including those involving renewable resource authorizations, fuels management, fire operations, and emergency stabilization prioritization.  Rapid restoration of sage-grouse habitat has proven difficult, requiring the BLM to focus on its pre-fire, fire suppression, and post fire efforts.  The BLM will place a high priority on treatments that will aid fire suppression and reduce fire threats within and adjacent to sage-grouse habitat.  The following provides guidance to convey leader’s intent while recognizing that not all of these actions and activities apply to all affected offices and successful implementation may look different throughout the BLM.


Prior to, during, and following wildland fires, BLM field offices will:


·        Protect, conserve, and restore sage-grouse habitat.


·        Strive to maintain and enhance resilience of sage-grouse habitat.


·        Foster existing relationships with partners and develop new cooperative relationships that will help bolster BLM capacity to protect sage grouse habitat.


With regard to fire operations in sage grouse habitat, BLM field offices will: 


·        Prioritize firefighter and public safety including following our “Standard Firefighting Orders”, mitigate any “Watch-Out Situations”, and apply the principles of Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones on all fire assignments.


·        Maintain a strong and proactive preparedness capability when conditions indicate potential for multiple ignitions and large fire growth.


·        Maintain situational awareness during suppression resource drawdown levels under multiple ignition and large fire growth conditions.


·        Boost suppression capability in critical sage grouse habitat when severe fire weather conditions are predicted.


·        Generate interest in local residents and public land users becoming a trained and equipped fire response force to work in concert with existing partners.


·        Expand the use of Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) or Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) suppression resources.


·        Continue and expand efforts to train and use local, non-federal agency individuals as liaisons in wildland fire detection and suppression operations.


With regard to Renewable Resources Programs, Fuels, Healthy Lands Initiative (HLI), and Emergency Stabilization & Rehabilitation (ES&R), BLM field offices will:


·        Consider establishing fuel breaks, such as mowing, tilling, green-stripping, and planting of fire resistant plant species in strategic locations to help protect areas with sagebrush cover.


·        Coordinate with State/County/Municipal highway and road departments on road right-of-way maintenance programs to reduce fuel loads and the size and spread of wildfire.


·        Coordinate with partners including state, federal and private landowners to design and implement fuels treatments that will minimize fire growth and size.


·        Consider reducing the cover of pinyon pine and juniper where it is encroaching on sage-grouse habitat.


·        Apply Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) practices in addressing invasive and non-native species, including cheatgrass treatments and sagebrush management.


·        Increase sagebrush, perennial grass and forb cover.


·        Protect soil from erosion following disturbance through planting and seeding efforts.


§  Strive to retain residual and functional post-fire plant species including early seral native perennial grasses.


§  Favor fire-resistant native or non-native plant species when necessary as a first step toward habitat recovery.


§  Use locally adapted native seed where available and probability of success and funding allow.


§  Consider using minimum till drills and multiple seed boxes, where practical and available, to increase seeding success.


·        Coordinate funding and planning within fuels, ESR, and renewable resources programs to plan and implement treatments that meet landscape objectives.  This may include side-by-side treatments, and utilizing partner funds to cover additions to ESR seed mixes that will conserve and restore sage-grouse habitat.


The Fire Planning and Fuels Management Division (FA-600) hosts the webpage containing updated maps, instruction memoranda, conservation measures, best management practices, and spatial data pertaining to sage-grouse for the fire and fuels management functions.  These resources can be accessed at:  http://web.blm.gov/internal/fire/fpfm/sg/index.html.  Using locally-developed data to supplement these resources is encouraged.


Timeframe:  This IM is effective immediately.


Budget Impact: Costs will remain consistent with current budgets.  States and offices without sage-grouse habitat may receive less than their usual allocation in some program areas to help achieve these objectives.


Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  This IM complements WO IM No. 2013-128, FA IM No. 2012-017, and WO IM No. 2012-043.


Coordination:  This IM has been coordinated between Fire and Aviation (FA100) and Resources and Planning (WO200).


Contact:  Questions may be directed to Ron Dunton, Acting Assistant Director, Office of Fire and Aviation, 208-387-5447, or Edwin Roberson, Assistant Director, Resources and Planning, 202-208-4896.  Technical contacts are Stephen Small, Division Chief for Fish and Wildlife Conservation at (202) 912-7366 and Krista Gollnick-Waid, Fire Planning and Fuels Management Division at (208) 387-5165.



Signed by:                                                                    Authenticated by:

Steven A. Ellis                                                              Robert M. Williams

Deputy Director, Operations                                         Division of IRM Governance,WO-860





BLM_Field Committee




Last updated: 07-18-2014