Interior Secretary Orders New Strategy in Dealing with 'Frequent Intense Wildfires'

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell handed down a so-called "secretarial order" this morning, calling for a "comprehensive science-based strategy to address the more frequent intense wildfires that are damaging vital sagebrush landscapes and productive rangelands," particularly pointing to Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

Jewell said the new strategy will take effect immediately, beginning with the 2015 fire season. The order is designed to reduce the size, severity and cost of rangeland fires and would address the spread of cheatgrass and other invasive species.

The order also includes the creation of a Rangeland Fire Task Force, which will include Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor and five assistant secretaries.

Meanwhile, Jewell is facing a court-ordered 2015 deadline to address threats to greater sage-grouse. She said today that the new strategy is part of a centerpiece to conserve and protect sagebrush habitat.

“To protect these landscapes for economic activity and wildlife like the greater sage-grouse, we need a three-pronged approach that includes strong federal land management plans, strong state plans, and an effective plan to address the threat of rangeland fire,” said Jewell.