Idaho Statesman: Politicians blow smoke when talking wildfires

Idaho Statesman’s view: Politicians blow smoke when talking wildfires

This editorial is about the giant Murphy range fire of 2007 and the attempt by leading Idaho politicians to say it was so hard to control because too much native vegetation had been uneaten by cows.

A recent report by the BLM and other government agencies said that was not so (despite what must have been enormous political pressure on them).

The Wildlife News recently reported on the study’s release.

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New report says grazing had “negligible” effects on size of Murphy Complex fire

This is a revised version of an earlier story.

Here is the news release from the Western Watersheds Project.

Rocky Barker also discusses it in his recent blog.

BLM Report On The Murphy Complex Wild Fire Shows That Grazing Has Little Effect On Fire Behavior.


Idaho BLM has released a long awaited Report on the Murphy Complex Fire. The Murphy wildfire blaze burned over half a million acres of sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat in summer 2007.  BLM, ranchers and Idaho politicians had hoped the Report might show that livestock grazing can reduce wildfire impacts. Instead, it showed little to no effect of livestock grazing in limiting fire spread.


In fact, under the hot, dry conditions typical of western wildfires, grazing would have to be conducted to such a degree that only bare dirt, manure and trampled grass remained to make much difference at all. Such severe grazing leaves no habitat value for sensitive species such as sage grouse, pygmy rabbits or other species such as mule deer.
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Photo of cattle on the Murphy burn

The land needs to rest from cattle grazing for several seasons after a range fire, but here they are on the tablelands above Jackpot, Nevada, grazing part of the Murphy burn.

The sagebrush area is unburned, the rest is obviously burned. Grazing a burn weakens the newly sprouted perennial grasses — the good grasses — in favor of the fire prone annuals. I did notice the cows left the lupines and death camas completely untouched. I had to wonder if the future of this draw will be pretty poisonous flowers?

Cattle grazing the Murphy burn
Grazing the Murphy burn the very next year. Photo Ralph Maughan. June 16, 2008

I saw quite a few pronghorn in the general area, and it is also obviously important deer and elk transitional and maybe winter range, but cows seem to come before everything else.
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Update. June 24. The BLM is going up to the area to get the cattle off the burn. They are not supposed to be there.

Idaho Senate Resources and Environment committee meeting

Idaho Senate Resources & Environment committee meeting by BE.

Perhaps just my feeling, but this tells us so much about the players and their priorities.

Dept. of Interior top official tours Murphy fire area and says climate change a large factor

Assistant Secretary of the Interior C. Stephen Allred has visited the area of the huge Murphy rangefire this summer. Afterwards he talked with local politicos. He announced reseeding would be 80% native seed. Fortunately a considerable portion of the area is not invaded with cheatgrass yet and doesn’t need reseeding (or so I’ve been told).

My first impression is that 80% is pretty good given the lack of seed. My opinion (is supported in my mind) by the fact that powerful politicican-rancher state Rep. Burt Brackett, R-Rogerson wanted more foreign species planted.

I’ll take the native blue bunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, sagebrush and bitterbrush.

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Climate change! A rare nod to it from the Bush Administration.

Story: By Matt Christensen. Times-News writer

A tale of two fires: Was Ketchum treated better?

This is from the Magic Valley Times-News. A tale of two fires: was Ketchum treated better?

Both fires had huge amount of resources poured on them, so I think this story sets up a false comparison. On one hand in the Murphy range fire, you had powerful ranchers to whom politicians bow and scrape. On the other hand with Castle Rock Fire, you had a community with some of the richest and best known people in the country.

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