The wildfires that have filled the Treasure Valley with smoke and may have the biggest impact on the economy of Idaho weren’t even within our borders.
The Holloway fire started August 5 along the Oregon-Nevada border and quickly grew to more than 200,000 acres. Its two incident command teams turn control over the nearly contained fire to Bureau of Land Management districts in the two state at 3 pm. Today.
The fire grew to 461,000 acres including 180,000 in sagebrush steppe identified as core habitat for sage grouse. In July the Long Draw Fire burned another 582,000 acres including 458,000 acres of core sagebrush habitat.
The smoke has been hard on everyone. But the impacts on sage grouse could make it difficult for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state authorities to avoid listing the bird. If the bird is listed it could sharply limit energy, real estate and agricultural development across the West. It also could dramatically reduce public lands grazing and recreation.
Fire is considered the biggest threat to sage grouse survival in part because invasive cheatgrass has replaced sagebrush and bunch grass on millions of acres of rangeland, changing the frequency of fires. Hotter, longer summer burning seasons only adds to the challenge.