In wake of devastating wildfires, BLM asks for input on plans to reduce future infernos

ST. GEORGE — Over the last year, record wildfires have raged across the west, including the devastating Brian Head fire in Southern Utah. The Bureau of Land Management is currently seeking public comment on its plans to reduce such catastrophic infernos in the future.

The BLM is conducting public meetings in six western states to gather input on the preparation of two programmatic environmental impact statements, or PEIS, aimed at reducing wildfires and restoring sagebrush steppe habitat.

Slash piles are burned in order to reduce fuel near Duck Creek Village, Dixie National Forest, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

The impact statements will analyze future projects in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah and California. Southern Utah residents will have a chance to sound off on the plans at a public meeting in Cedar City Feb. 14.

Comments will be accepted for an analysis of fuels breaks, which are designed slow the advance of wildfire and reduce the threat to life and property, among other benefits.

“The fuel break PEIS will help us to limit the size of wildfires and provide better protection for the public and firefighters,” John Ruhs, BLM Nevada state director, said.

Comments are also solicited for the analysis of restoration work of burned areas, which includes an emphasis on replacing invasive species with native and other species more conducive to sagebrush-steppe health.

“The restoration PEIS will speed the recovery of burned areas,” Ruhs said, “helping the vegetation to recover faster and minimize the disruption of local economies.”

The BLM expects the analyses to streamline future fuel break and restoration projects, reducing the need for in-depth evaluation on an individual project basis.

The public meeting in Cedar City will be held at the Heritage Center’s Festival Hall, 105 N. 100 East, Feb. 14 from 5-7 p.m.

The BLM will also accept public input in writing until March 1, which may be submitted at the public meetings, by email at GRSG_PEIS@blm.gov or by fax at 208-373-3805. Written comments may also be sent via mail to Jonathan Beck, BLM Idaho State Office, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, ID 83709.

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