February 17, 2020
 
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Agency to Pay for Fuel Breaks          02/16 10:15

   The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to fund 11,000 miles 
(17,703 kilometers) of strategic fuel breaks in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, 
California, Nevada and Utah in an effort to help control wildfires.

   PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to 
fund 11,000 miles (17,703 kilometers) of strategic fuel breaks in Idaho, 
Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah in an effort to help control 
wildfires.

   The fuel breaks are intended to prop up fire mitigation efforts and help 
protect firefighters, communities and natural resources, The Oregonian reported 
Saturday.

   According to the BLM, wildfires are becoming bigger and more frequent across 
the Great Basin states. Between 2009 and 2018, more than 13.5 million acres of 
BLM land burned in the project area.

   "Recovering from the devastating effects of wildfires can take decades in 
the rugged, high-desert climate of the Great Basin. These tools will help 
firefighters contain fires when they break out," said acting Assistant 
Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond in a 
news release. "That's why creating fuel breaks is incredibly important to the 
entire basin, the people who live in these communities, and our wildland 
firefighters."

   Fuel breaks are intended to break up fire fuels by creating breaks in 
vegetation that slow a blaze's progress. By implementing them strategically, 
they help firefighters control the spread of fire, and can protect homes and 
resources.

   Some scientists debate the effectiveness of fuel breaks, raising questions 
about whether these efforts are worth funding.

   But the BLM reports that assessments of more than 1,200 fuel breaks found 
that 78% of them helped control wildfire and 84% helped change fire behavior. 
According to the news release, "the BLM has extensively documented that fuel 
breaks, and other types of fuel treatments, are effective."

   Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman for the BLM, said the program will help 
streamline the implementation process by reducing or eliminating the need for 
environmental analysis. 

   The timeline for implementation and the location of fuel breaks will depend 
on what offices develop plans and apply for funding.

   Because BLM offices have not requested funds, said Jones, the BLM can't 
provide a figure for what the plan will cost.

   "Costs will depend on how many fuel breaks are actually constructed, what 
types of fuel breaks are constructed, where they are constructed, whether they 
are constructed by employees or contractors," Jones said.

   The public can comment on the plan for the next 30 days, after which the BLM 
will make final decisions.


(KR)

 
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