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BLM proposes expedited review of timber salvage projects - 05/28/20

Proposal would allow agency to address threat posed by catastrophic wildfires to forest health and public safety across millions of acres in the West.

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management today announced a proposal to establish a new categorical exclusion (CX) under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would streamline the agency’s review of routine timber salvage projects and operations. This proposal would contribute to rural economies, accelerate reestablishment of native resilient forest tree species and reduce future wildfire fuel loads, while diminishing hazards to wildland firefighters, the public and infrastructure from dead and dying trees.

“The Trump Administration takes the threat of wildfire seriously. At Interior, we are doing everything we can within the law to aggressively prepare for wildfire season,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Katharine MacGregor. “This proposed measure would significantly cut back on the time it takes to allow commercial timber operators into a landscape devastated by wildfire to remove marketable trees while also reducing or eliminating hazard trees that pose a danger to firefighters and infrastructure. Fostering timber jobs while reducing wildfire risks is a win-win.”

“We have to give our land managers the tools they need to reduce fuel loads and the threat of catastrophic wildfires in an environmentally sustainable manner. This proposal will allow us to increase the health and resilience of the landscape for both wildlife and people,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs.

The proposed CXs is part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order 3372Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct Department of the Interior (DOI) to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.

From 2000 to 2017, wildfires burned an average of 6.8 million acres annually in the U.S. For BLM-managed forests, fire has affected an average of 279,630 acres annually from 2009 to 2018. The threat of wildfires is accelerated by the presence of dead and dying timber. Insect and disease survey data collected in 2015 by the Forest Health Protection Program of the U.S. Forest Service identified 70 different mortality-causing insects and diseases across 5.2 million acres in the conterminous United States. The BLM assembled data from the U.S. Forest Service Aerial Detection Survey from 2008 to 2017 and found nearly two million acres of forest mortality were observed over that period on BLM lands.

Given the threat of wildfires across millions of acres of forests – and the threat this poses to native wildlife and the lives and livelihoods of people and communities across the West – the BLM has identified that establishing a new CX for the actions is necessary to expedite the removal of dead and dying timber to reduce fuel loads and the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their decisions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The appropriate use of CXs allows NEPA compliance, in the absence of extraordinary circumstances that merit further consideration, to be concluded without preparing either an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.

The proposal would affect only routine timber salvage projects smaller than 5,000 acres that normally do not require more extensive environmental analysis. While wildfire affects hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM-managed lands each year, current BLM regulations only allow for use of a salvage harvest CX that may not exceed 250 acres. This additional CX will increase the agency’s flexibility to respond to disturbances across larger areas.

The BLM has completed a review of scientific literature and previously analyzed and implemented actions and found no evidence that salvage harvest at the levels proposed would have a negative effect on forest health. To the contrary, removing dead and dying trees can accelerate forest succession and benefit native wildlife species that rely on successional habitat, while reducing the potential for catastrophic wildfires.

The BLM is opening a public comment period on the proposed CX that closes 30 days after the proposal publishes in the Federal Register. The BLM will provide additional information about when and how to comment when the proposed rule is published. 

For more information on the BLM’s forest management activities, visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/forests-and-woodlands

 

Background

The Department of the Interior has implemented an aggressive strategy to more effectively manage, treat, and prevent wildfires, reducing wildfire risks on more than 1.4 million acres of Federal lands in 2019. This was the largest fuel load reduction in a decade. More information is available online.

 

What They are Saying

“In recent years, catastrophic wildfires have devastated the communities of the Sierra Nevada. Frivolous lawsuits and failed public land management policies have intensified these deadly blazes. The result is mortal danger to our citizens and devastation of our local economies as dead timber is left to burn.” said U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04). “Scientific land management can restore resilience to our forests, health for our economy and most important, safety for our communities. I applaud Secretary Bernhardt, Deputy Secretary MacGregor and BLM Acting Director Pendley for recognizing that the current process is badly broken and taking actions that will save lives, restore our forests and watersheds and boost our local economies.”

“I appreciate the Trump administration increasing the tools in our toolbox to improve our forest management. In 2017, wildfires consumed over one million acres in Montana, threatened livelihoods, and destroyed wildlife habitats. Fire season is getting longer and more severe,” said Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large.) “Today’s announcement from the Bureau of Land Management boosts common-sense, smart fire prevention measures, rehabilitation efforts, and timber jobs in Montana. By removing dead and dying timber on the front end, we can reduce the likelihood and severity of wildfires on our public lands.”

 “Members of the American Loggers Council support the BLM's proposed expedited review of timber salvage projects.  While the use of the proposed categorical exclusion will allow land managers to reduce fuel loads caused by insect, disease and wildland fires in order to accomplish forest restoration work in a timely manner, it also allows commercial timber harvests to take place before the dead, diseased and dying timber has lost its commercial value generating not only revenue for the BLM, but also supporting rural infrastructure and jobs in timber dependent communities,” said Daniel J. Dructor, Executive Vice President, American Loggers Council.

“The frustration of not being able to salvage timber from dead and dying trees before wildfires can occur and before the timber becomes unmerchantable, is always painful,” noted Eric Carleson, Executive Director, Associated California Loggers. “But at a time when wildfires in California have destroyed an unprecedented number of acres, loss of salvage timber is a two-fold tragedy. Rural communities and firefighters alike are threatened by dead trees, and by wildfires that could have been prevented with streamlined salvage rules in place. Unmerchantable timber is a liability. This proposed Categorical Exclusion is the right solution at exactly the right time.”

"Current NEPA requirements delay any meaningful actions to remove hazardous snags and fuels left after wildfires.  The resulting hazards pose long term risks to the public, elevate the dangers faced by firefighters and cause future fires to burn even more severely.  This new CX authority will help land managers reduce those risks. We have seen countless wildfires sweep over the same burned landscapes that were not treated.  These recurring incidents are far more damaging to the ecosystem than the first.  This new CX authority will permit land managers prompt action to remove hazardous snags and fuels along roadways and create fuel to protect the land when the next fire comes," said Javier Goirigolzarri, Executive Director, Communities for Healthy Forests, Inc.

“A welcomed, commonsense change to more effectively allow BLM to respond to the forest health crisis in the West. This new proposal will provide BLM the opportunity to be a better neighbor to private and state forest lands and offer more protection for the  environment,” said Idaho state Representative Judy Boyle, Chairman of the Western  Legislative Forest Task Force & Co-chair of the federal lands committee on federalism.

“Timber salvage after a wildfire is a race against the clock. This CE will greatly improve the department’s ability to salvage timber after a wildfire. Removing the timber while it still has value allows for post-fire restoration to occur expediently and at a significantly reduced cost. This helps rural communities and environments rebuild after a catastrophic wildfire,” said Shaun Crook, 2nd Vice President, California Farm Bureau Federation.

“We need regulations that will allow more large scale, aggressive fuels management to improve forest health. In addition to improving safety and wildlife management, active managing fuels is the key to managing water yield and quality. Current scientific studies illustrate that those benefits may be the most important contribution of active fuels management,” stated Bill Mulligan, Idaho Forester, Trinity Consulting.

“We have been hit hard with wildfires in southwestern Oregon for the last ten years; those fires have caused economic and health hardships for the counties and citizens. Leaving dead and dying timber to fuel future fires is both dangerous for the forest and a waste of economic resources. Speeding up salvage operations by cutting bureaucratic red tape is a good first step in bringing sound forest management back to the BLM-managed timberlands,” said Douglas County Oregon County Commissioner and President of the Association of O&C Counties Tim Freeman.

 “It is vital that the Bureau of Land Management turn their minds to the enormous timber salvage harvesting task that lies ahead to reduce fuel loads and the threat of catastrophic wildfires across millions of acres of forests,” said Dan Johnson, Idaho State Senator. “Communities and forests will benefit greatly by an expedited review of timber salvage operations that are part of a sustainable forest management program.”

“I applaud the Bureau of Land Management for their proposal to establish new categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act that will give resource managers the ability to streamline review of routine timber salvage projects”, said Julia Altemus, executive director of the Montana Wood Products Association.  “This proposal is consistent with other federal efforts to address the need to streamline salvage opportunities and will help align cross-boundary federal and state responses to rehabilitate landscapes after wildfire and mitigates insect and disease outbreaks and spread.”  

 

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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

BLM proposes modernizing forest management rules - 05/28/20

First revision in 35+ years aims to increase efficiency, effectiveness of active forest management

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management is proposing updates to antiquated regulations governing administration of timber sales and protest of forest management decisions, which haven’t been revised in more than 35 years. This proposal more effectively executes the bureau’s modern watershed and landscape-level land management planning and evaluation process, which will enable BLM to make better decisions more quickly for the benefit of taxpayers and local communities.

“Over 30 years ago, the BLM proposed a protest process to ‘expedite’ timber management decisions. Unfortunately, this process has had the opposite effect,” said Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. “This proposal seeks to ensure timely action, including for thinning activities related to fire preparedness.”

“The BLM’s forest management program contributes to sustained yield of timber to support local communities, while reducing fuel loads and the potential for catastrophic wildfires that can devastate forests and surrounding communities threatening lives,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. “Under the direction of President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 and Secretary Bernhardt’s Secretary’s Order 3372, the BLM is updating these rules to increase efficiency and to improve our ability to conduct active forest management on public lands.”

The way BLM plans forest management projects and completes the environmental review of these projects has changed significantly since the 1980’s, and these proposed changes will improve the public’s ability to comment earlier in the process, when views and information have the greatest impact, rather than relying on protests after decisions have been made. Abuse of and litigation over protests has delayed the BLM’s efforts to implement active forest management, with both economic and and public safety consequences.

For example, the Pickett Hog timber sale in Oregon received 29 protests before auction in September 2017 – delaying the sale by more than a year. Before the BLM could complete protest reviews and responses, a wildfire destroyed a number of sale units in July 2018. Under the proposed regulations, the public comments could have been addressed before the auction was held, allowing the BLM to award the sale and the purchaser to begin thinning operations before the fire took place.

When the current forest management rules were last updated in 1984, the BLM designed individual timber sales that were based on the location and extent of the forest management activity. Today, the BLM often conducts its environmental review on multiple projects in a single watershed or on a biologically-relevant scale, such as wildlife habitat for a particular species. At the same time, the BLM promotes greater collaboration and information-sharing during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which includes multiple opportunities for public involvement at times when the views and information provided are most effective. For these reasons, the 15-day protest period, which opens after a forest management decision is issued, often occurs long after environmental review has taken place.

When the protest period was first adopted, it was intended to “expedite implementation of decisions relating to timber management.” Instead, in too many cases today, individuals and organizations that are unsatisfied with the final forest management decision are using the protest process to delay implementation by filing lengthy protests with the same comments that were previously raised and addressed during the NEPA process. Responding to these protests can be costly to the public in terms of time and other resources, and in many cases offer no value to improve the agency decision or reduce appeals and litigation. It also leads to uncertainty during the auction and award of timber sales, since protest and appeal processes are not available until a decision has been issued.

The proposed amendments streamline the procedures governing forest management decisions by eliminating as unnecessary the post-decision protest period and allowing a single forest management decision to cover all forest management activities covered in an environmental review document. This would help identify any issues earlier in the NEPA review process, enhancing the BLM’s ability to resolve them before advertising a timber sale or implementing other forest management activities.

“Rather than streamlining the review process, as was originally envisioned, protest periods have proven to expend agency time and resources with little benefit. Focusing opportunities for public review and comment during the NEPA process, as the law’s authors intended, will enable us to make better decisions and implement them more effectively and efficiently,” Pendley said.

The proposed amendments also would better use communications technology by making decisions available online, in addition to other communication platforms such as newspapers and social media.

The BLM is opening a public comment period on the proposed revisions, which closes 60 days after the proposal publishes in the Federal Register. The BLM will provide additional information about when and how to comment when the proposed rule is published. 

For more information on the BLM’s forest management activities, visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/forests-and-woodlands

 

Background

In 2018, the BLM offered 246.2 million board feet of timber for sale, generating approximately $600 million in economic output and supporting 2,000 jobs. In addition to selling timber harvested from BLM-managed lands under the principle of sustained yield, the BLM’s forest management efforts often include fire safety and fire resilience objectives. One quarter of the 245 million acres of lands managed by the BLM are forest ecosystems, spread across 13 western states including Alaska. Through responsible forest management, the BLM ensures the health of these forest lands as well as the availability of traditional forest products.

The proposed revisions are part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order 3372Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct Department of the Interior (DOI) to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.

 

What They are Saying

“Anyone familiar with the Rogue Valley knows BLM public lands are important to our local economy and attract tourists from around the world.  Yet, antiquated regulations and anti-forestry obstruction have made it difficult for federal land managers to complete the forest management work necessary to reduce fire risks and assure a healthy environment for residents and visitors alike,” stated Brad Hicks, CCE, President & CEO, the Chamber of Medford & Jackson County. “As a result, our Southern Oregon communities have unnecessarily endured the harmful effects of severe fire and toxic smoke in recent years.  I applaud the proposed rules which will improve forest management on BLM lands, save lives as well as benefit local jobs and businesses in our community.  This is quite an achievement and the effort will go a long way toward protecting our quality of life, providing relief from wildfires and smoke, and ensuring that our region remains a destination for tourism far into the future.”

“The members of the American Loggers Council, spanning 34 States across the United States, fully support the proposed changes to the BLM's forest management rules that will promote forest health, improve rural economies in forest dependent communities, and help to prevent the catastrophic wildfires that are a real threat to communities in fire prone forested areas,” stated Daniel J. Dructor, Executive Vice President, American Loggers Council. “For too long, professional, credible forest management decisions have been held up in courtrooms by serial litigants whose goals seem to be based on an emotionally charged preservationist agenda instead of forest management that is based on sound science and those forest managers that have both the background and skill set to properly manage the nation’s public forestland.”

“These necessary changes will allow for more nimble management which better fit today’s forest landscape situation. The current unwieldy dinosaur regulations have created costly delays with tragic results for wildlife, watersheds, and people,” stated Idaho state Representative Judy Boyle, Chairman of the Western Legislative Forestry Task Force, and Co-Chair of the federal lands committee on federalism.

“BLM's current forest management protest process isn’t working and modernization is way overdue,” said Douglas County Commissioner and President of the Association of OC Counties Tim Freeman. “Concerns over proposed BLM projects should be identified early in the process so the BLM has an opportunity to promptly address concerns. The proposed updating of the protest process will help eliminate needless delays.”

“The BLM’s administrative protest process has been abused by anti-forestry, activist groups to delay and stop needed forest management projects developed by forestry experts. More science-based management would improve the health of our overstocked federal forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire that threatens lives, property, and air quality, and is absolutely essential to the sustaining the long-term viability of rural communities across Oregon. Murphy Company strongly supports common sense changes to end the blatant abuse of this system to restore greater fairness and certainty for the rural communities where we operate, forestry experts, and companies like ours that rely on BLM timber to continue putting Oregonians to work producing the renewable, carbon-friendly wood products we use every day,” stated John Murphy, President & CEO, Murphy Company.

“We very much appreciate the Department’s work to modernize forest management rules. Years of mismanagement under antiquated practices have left millions of acres of forests across the West at risk for disease and catastrophic fire,” said Shaun Crook, 2nd Vice President, California Farm Bureau Federation. “Every day that reforms to management practices aren’t implemented represents another day of possible forest improvement lost. Our rural communities and environments depend on healthy forests, and we have to significantly increase the pace and scale of management practices so we can once again have a resilient landscape.”

“Southern Oregon has been deeply impacted by catastrophic wildfire andsmoke for far too long, resulting in negative health impacts, cancellations of signature cultural and sporting events, and reduced economic activity for local businesses across many sectors. The Chamber’s Natural Resource Action Team and Chamber Board of Directors has long advocated for this, so we are excited about the BLM's proposed rule to modernize forest management decisions. This will help increase the pace and scale of thinning and other activities on local BLM lands, which is essential to protecting our communities, supporting our economy, and reducing the risks of fire and smoke in the future,” said Sue Kupillas, Chair, Natural Resources Action Team, the Chamber of Medford & Jackson County.

 “It is not only a good time to be looking at changing the protest mechanism within forest management regulations,” said Eric Carleson, Executive Director, Associated California Loggers. “It is an urgently needed  change.   These provisions, and others, have not been changed in 35+ years, and over the decades,  the nature of forest management has changed against a background of enhanced environmental review on the one hand, and the impact of massive wildfires in the West on the other.   The ‘protest’ mechanism was intended to streamline management planning and decision-making; it has devolved down to a mechanism that slows down projects which are urgently needed for fuels reduction and forest health, without a commensurate improvement in the review process.”

“These updates improve the opportunity of timely implementation of management plans. Federal land managers have a wide diversity of resource experts designing and implementing management activity. The unnecessary delaying of needed action is a serious problem for resource managers. If the medical community was subject to justifying their every action, most patients would die before they reached the operating table. The forests are Interior’s patient, and the experts are in emergency mode. These updates will help them get the job done more expeditiously,” stated Bill Mulligan, Idaho Forester, Trinity Consulting.

"Extremists have hijacked the protest process in order to destroy jobs, drain forest revenues and jeopardize the safety of our mountain communities.  Today's action increases transparency by posting protest decisions online as well as in newspapers and on social media. Modernizing this broken system after nearly four decades is badly needed and will provide significant benefits for public safety, the economy and the environment. I thank Secretary Bernhardt, Deputy Secretary MacGregor and BLM Acting Director Pendley for this leadership," said U.S. Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04).

 

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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

Oregon's high desert Memorial Day connection - 05/20/20

Portland, Ore. – The news feature article below, titled “Every day is Memorial Day on Burma Rim,” commemorates how an ancient volcanic rim on public land in Oregon’s high desert tells a story of duty and sacrifice.

In 1973, a U.S. Navy jet on a training mission crashed on Burma Rim in Oregon’s remote high desert, near Christmas Valley within the BLM Lakeview District. Naval aviators Lt. Alan G. Koehler and Lt. Cmdr. Philip D. Duhamel both perished in the accident. Today, a memorial plaque honors the fallen aviators at the BLM-designated historic site.

Full story below.

Multimedia resources:

For more information on visiting the site, please contact the LM_OR_LV_Mailbox@blm.gov,%20or%20541-947-2177.">BLM Lakeview District Office at BLM_OR_LV_Mailbox@blm.gov or 541-947-2177.

 

-BLM–

 

Every day is Memorial Day on Burma Rim

Story by Greg Shine, BLM Oregon/Washington

The vast sagebrush sea of Oregon’s High Desert enchants and inspires, teasing revelation from deep within its silver-green majesty.

This allure belies the events that, thousands of years ago, forged the craggy volcanic rocks at its core. Outside forces occasionally revisit the land’s cataclysmic birth, etching their mark and bursting open a portal to even broader human connection.

Burma Rim is one of these places.

There, on public land, miles from the nearest paved road leading to Christmas Valley, the remains of a Navy jet rest atop the edge of an ancient lakeshore escarpment, framed by sweeping vistas of sagebrush and rocky buttes.

A plaque near the aircraft’s tail section honors the two naval aviators who died there.

The flutter of fading American flags, attached in memoriam to hulking sections of the decades-old aircraft wreckage, brings the only sound and motion to the static landscape.

Where fire and havoc once raged, solitude now provokes reflection. Reflection on service and sacrifice. And on life, love, and loss.

On Burma Rim, every day is Memorial Day.

 

Like Burma Rim itself, the U.S. Navy’s Attack Squadron 128—known as VA-128—was also forged in fire.

Established in 1967 during the Vietnam War as a Fleet Replacement Squadron, it trained naval aviators, flight officers, and crewmen for assignment to fleet squadrons, where they would conduct wartime missions over Southeast Asia from aircraft carriers. In 1973, the squadron was based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State.

As the squadron’s commanding officer would later report, 1973 was a year of transition for the unit. January marked the end of U.S. Navy combat operations in Vietnam, broadened thereafter to all of Southeast Asia. “This marked the first time since VA-128 was commissioned that flight crews were not being trained for going directly into a combat environment,” the squadron commander noted.

Still, that year the Golden Aviators of VA-128 logged 6,918 training hours and honed skills through 371 daytime and 233 nighttime landings while training aboard the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Lexington aircraft carriers. “Peace time has had no appreciable effect on aircrew training,” the squadron commander reported at year’s end.

The squadron’s workhorses were its Grumman A-6A Intruder jets, measuring in at over 54 feet long with a wingspan nearly identical at 53 feet. Two Pratt and Whitney J52-P-6A turbojets powered these low-flying, long-range attack aircraft, enabling subsonic speeds of up to 646 miles per hour.

Hidden within its bulbous nose and fuselage, the A-6A’s state-of-the-art avionics were its prime feature. They included an inertial navigation system, air data computer, ballistics computer, radar altimeter, Doppler navigation system, and an advanced all-weather electronic system with antennae for both search and track radar optimized for stealthy nighttime and inclement weather missions.

One of the squadron’s new pilots training to fly the A-6A in 1973 was Lt. Alan G. Koehler.

After graduating from Luther College in 1968, the Illinois native and baseball standout completed Aviation Officer Candidate School and, in March of 1969, earned an ensign’s commission in the U.S. Navy. Shortly thereafter, he joined VA-128 as a bombardier-navigator and transferred to VA-52 the following year, amassing an impressive collection of honors that included nine Strike-Flight Air Medals and three Navy Commendation Medals.

In March of 1973, Koehler earned his naval aviator wings and returned to VA-128 in April for fleet replacement pilot training to fly the A-6A Intruder. By September, he had accumulated over 390 flying hours of pilot training—including 93 flying hours at the stick of the A6-A—at just 27 years old.

One of Koehler’s instructors was Lt. Cmdr. Philip D. Duhamel.

Duhamel was well known at Whidbey Island, having been stationed there in 1964, 1968, and since June of 1972. The New York City native graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1963. The following year, he was commissioned a U.S. Navy ensign and, shortly thereafter, a naval flight officer.

While assigned to Carrier Division 7, he served as flag lieutenant. Over six combat cruises, Duhamel earned honors such as the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V.”

Duhamel returned to NAS Whidbey Island in June 1972, attached to VA-128, and by 1973 served as a staff instructor for new pilots from the bombardier/navigator (B/N) position inside the A-6A. By September, the 33-year-old had logged over 456 flying hours as a B/N in the A-6A, including 23.2 daytime and 3.8 nighttime flight hours in the past 90 days.

On September 19, Duhamel was paired as Koehler’s instructor for a nighttime training flight over central Oregon.

 

To some, the overcast sky and midday rain on Wednesday, September 19, 1973, may have seemed more like autumn than one of the last days of summer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

That day, like many before it, crewmen serviced jets for training flights, while pilots-in-training and instructors planned and prepared for their next missions. 

One of these, labeled Event 28314, was to be Koehler’s next training flight, with Duhamel serving as instructor in the B/N position. It was a routine, nighttime, low-level syllabus training exercise, one of many flown by the Golden Aviators of VA-128.

The assigned training flight route, Tail Hook OB-16, was aptly named; it hung like a giant fishing hook bent over the High Desert’s ancient Pleistocene lakebeds.

Trainees flew it in a clockwise direction, dropping into its lower altitude path near the imaginary hook’s tip in western Harney County, just northeast of Wagontire Mountain. Jetting southwest toward the northern tip of Silver Lake in Lake County, pilots would then cut sharply north to a point southeast of Hampton Butte – forming the curve of the hook—before continuing northeast and ending at the Boardman Bombing Range (today’s Naval Weapons System Training Facility Boardman) just outside of Boardman, Oregon.

Military flights regularly followed this route, and an official Military Training Route—dubbed IR342—still covers parts of the pathway today.

Like others, the Tail Hook route contained specific checkpoints, and the flight timing between each was an important aspect of pilot training. The data meticulously recorded for each training flight included leg speeds and leg times—the speeds and times between checkpoints. If the team flew too slowly, the mission would fall behind schedule; if it flew too quickly, the mission could end disastrously.  

With their pre-flight briefing starting ahead of schedule, Koehler requested that their take off time be advanced a half hour, and he and Duhamel departed from Whidbey Island at 7:54 p.m. in their A-6A.

Sporting tail number 155721, the jet was one of the squadron’s more reliable ones, according to its maintenance officer. It passed its daily and preflight inspections—and Navy records indicate that it had flown two recent missions “with no reported discrepancies.” However, later investigation revealed that a “breakdown in internal maintenance department communications and procedures” allowed it to be launched that evening when it would have otherwise been held for maintenance.

The departure went off without a hitch. The crew’s communication with air traffic control in Seattle was routine and contained no mention of any issues or malfunctions.

From an altitude of 29,000 feet, Koehler and Duhamel sped over the Cascade Mountains of central Washington toward Oregon. Shortly after 8:37 p.m., at a point southeast of Indian Rock in Washington’s Klickitat County, air traffic control in Seattle cleared them to proceed on their approach to the Tail Hook route. Crossing the Columbia River into Oregon, they reported leaving their altitude of 24,000 feet and acknowledged when Seattle reported the expected loss of radar contact.

This would be the last radio transmission received from the flight.

 

Passing over Wolf Mountain, just south of today’s Black Canyon Wilderness Area, Koehler and Duhamel entered the approach to the training route and gradually descended. Speeding south, they passed a checkpoint ten miles west of Snow Mountain. They continued in that direction to another checkpoint about ten miles northeast of Wagontire Mountain, in today’s Northern Great Basin Experimental Range, where they descended and entered the Tail Hook route.

There, they flew toward the next checkpoint at Summer Lake low, straight, and level. And fast.

By then, they had fallen behind schedule. To make up time, they pushed past the designated and planned ground speed of 360 knots—about 414 miles per hour. It was a dark, moonless night over the High Desert, and the men relied entirely on their radar equipment for navigation.

Koehler and Duhamel then descended lower, below the minimum altitude.

As their pre-flight briefing would have noted, the squadron’s SOP (standard operating procedure) for the Tail Hook route made particular note of hazardous terrain on the approach to the Summer Lake turning point, where high points like Burma Rim, Sheep Rock, and Diablo Peak rise from the rolling, gently sloping landscape.

This terrain was known to cause the A-6A’s computerized APQ-92 radar system to create shadows of varying lengths. “Very close attention must be given to shadows generated by terrain and the B/N must insure that those shadows are decreasing in length,” a Navy report reads. “Shadow lengths that are decreasing are the only true indication of sufficient clearance altitude.”   

Clearance was a major factor for fast, ground-hugging flights like Event 28314.

The authorized minimum altitude for the Tail Hook route was 500 feet AGL—above ground level—but the squadron SOP had amended it to 750 feet with all terrain clearance systems working properly and up to 1,000 feet AGL if any were not operational.

Speeding toward the Summer Lake checkpoint and guided by their instruments, Burma Rim’s gentle eastside upslope rose in the distance to the jet’s steady elevation.

At about 8:50 p.m., a U.S. Air Force B-52 flying nearby reported viewing a flash of light, followed by a fireball, explosion, and intense fire on Burma Rim.

The A-6A had crashed; both Koehler and Duhamel were dead.

 

The standard description of the resulting accident—a CFIT or controlled flight into terrain—gives some understanding of what happened. However, it was Burma Rim’s scarred lava rocks and sagebrush that helped investigators piece together the flight’s last moments.

The landscape revealed that the A-6A first impacted the upsloping terrain, carving a 50-foot path. Sagebrush was broken down for about 15 to 20 feet in front of this site, indicating level flight prior to impact.

According to Navy investigators, there was “a strong possibility” that Koehler had become aware of the dangerous position just before this first impact and applied full back stick in an unsuccessful attempt to lift the jet above the terrain. At the first impact, Duhamel is believed to have ejected from the jet.

The jet, heavily damaged, then skipped back into the air for about 650 feet. In those final seconds, Koehler struggled valiantly to save the aircraft before ejecting from the cockpit.

The A-6A then impacted the rim again and exploded in a white-hot fireball, charring lava rock, burning sagebrush, and spreading debris for more than half a mile.

While ejection cleared Koehler and Duhamel from the explosion and fire, it wasn’t able to save their lives. The plane’s speed and low altitude put them outside the safe escape envelope of their Martin-Baker GRU-5 ejection seats, and, tragically, both perished amongst the sagebrush.

The Navy quickly initiated an investigation on site. The following day, U.S. Navy personnel transported the bodies of the fallen aviators back to the air station. A memorial service was held for both officers at the NAS Whidbey Chapel on September 25, 1973.

While the Navy removed portions of the A-6A debris for investigation, much of it remains on Burma Rim today.

 

As stewards of Burma Rim, the BLM continues to do its part to honor the aviators and preserve the site.

On June 14, 2007, nearly 34 years after the accident, a crowd gathered at the Lake County Courthouse War Memorial in Lakeview, Oregon. There, BLM staff, building on the exhaustive research efforts of District Archaeologist Bill Cannon, declared the A-6A accident site a historic federal site, along with an additional military aircraft accident site nearby. They also announced the upcoming placement of interpretive plaques at both locations to ensure, as Cannon described it, “the preservation of these cultural artifacts for future generations.”

From the Flag Day dais, Cannon illustrated how the site provokes reflection even decades after the tragic accident.

To Cannon and many others, the site is a portal to understanding what service and sacrifice really mean. He spoke that day of how the aviators “sacrificed their lives helping to defend the freedoms we enjoy in this great country.”

“As has been said, freedom is not free,” he continued. “It is fitting that we honor the memory of these men with these plaques. By doing so, we also honor all of the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who continue to do so today.”

And Cannon knows—better than most.

Not only has he studied and researched the site for decades, he has first-hand knowledge of Navy aviation. While serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, he watched A-6 jets launching from the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, bound for missions over Southeast Asia.

However, Cannon is the first to say that the story is not the airplane itself. It’s the site on Burma Rim, where the quiet sagebrush landscape fosters an opportunity for active, vibrant reflection.

“This is, to me, sacred ground,” he said.

And many visitors to Burma Rim today would agree.

-- by Greg Shine, BLM Oregon/Washington

 

-BLM–

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals. 

 

BLM begins to restore access to certain developed recreation facilities in Oregon - 05/18/20

Portland, Ore. – Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is increasing recreational access in Oregon. The BLM is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a case-by-case basis.

Visitors should expect differing levels of services and available facilities across Oregon. Updates on affected Oregon BLM facilities can be found online at https://www.blm.gov/oregon-washington/covid-access-restrictions or by calling your local BLM office:

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. Across the state, our operational approach will be to examine each facility, function, and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance. We continue to work closely with the Department of the Interior and are following CDC guidance to ensure public and employee spaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers. 

The restoration of access to BLM recreation sites will be gradual and in coordination with the state of Oregon and our local partners.

“We’re all in this together. BLM districts are ensuring that we’re taking the appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of our visitors and our recreation workforce,” said Jose Linares, Acting State Director for BLM Oregon/Washington. “Although we look forward to welcoming visitors back to our developed recreation facilities, we are asking for the public’s patience during this time of transition. We can’t stress enough that everyone should continue to follow guidance from the CDC and local officials when visiting their public lands.”

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating on public lands prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health. The BLM encourages all visitors to incorporate the following outdoor recreation practices for safety and to avoid placing unnecessary strain on local communities and America’s public lands:

  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Practice physical distancing and good hygiene. Follow CDC guidance on social distancing, maintaining at least six feet between you and those outside your immediate household. Avoid touching high-traffic surfaces.
  • Stay close to home. The state is still discouraging non-essential travel; this is not the time to travel long distances to recreate. Be sure to bring enough food, water, sunscreen, etc., for the entire day so you can avoid unnecessary stops.
  • Plan ahead to avoid crowds. Consider planning day trips during off-peak visitation times, such as early in the morning or on weekdays. Avoid crowding by not spending extra time in parking lots, at trailheads, or at boat launches. Launch one boat at a time to give others enough space to launch safely. Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you.
  • Come prepared. Visitors will likely find reduced or limited access to restrooms as the BLM begins restoring access at individual recreation sites and should bring their own soap/water/hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
  • Leave no trace. Many BLM recreation sites are also likely to have reduced or suspended trash collection services at developed recreation sites. All visitors are expected to follow Leave No Trace practices, including packing out all items they packed in, such as toilet paper, disposable gloves and masks, and food refuse.
  • Avoid unnecessary risks. Health care workers and first responders are working hard to keep us all safe. Visitors should avoid high-risk activities that could potentially put a strain on local first responders, medical providers, and/or search and rescue teams. 
  • Prevent wildfires. As the region enters the spring and summer months, the BLM asks visitors to use fire prevention practices and reminds visitors that the use of fireworks, target shooting with exploding targets, and fire tracer or incendiary devices is prohibited on BLM-administered public lands in Oregon.
  • Be kind to others. The BLM is proud to play a role in restoring access to some of America’s backyard treasures and provide nearby communities with the opportunity to enjoy their public lands during these stressful times. We are all in this together, so please be considerate of and welcoming to other visitors from appropriate physical distances. Please be particularly kind to park staff during these challenging times and help them do their jobs by doing your part to take care of each other and our beloved outdoors.

Details and updates on operations will continue to be posted on our website, https://www.blm.gov/oregon-washington/covid-access-restrictions and social media channels. Updates about BLM operations will be posted on www.blm.gov.

Current closures are pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): 43 CFR § 8364.1, 43 CFR § 9268.3(d)(1), and 43 CFR § 8365.1-4.

- BLM - 

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

 

 

Cash incentives help agency adopt more wild horses and burros - 05/14/20

First year of program sees 91% increase in placement numbers

 

WASHINGTON— The Bureau of Land Management announced today that the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Incentive Program launched in March 2019 contributed to a significant increase of animals placed into private care. In the first 12 months of the AIP, the agency adopted 6,026 animals, compared with 3,158 during the previous full fiscal year. That increase of 91% revives and accelerates an upward trend of adoptions that began in 2015.

 

The AIP, which began mid-way through Fiscal Year 2019, helped the agency to achieve a 15-year record for total placements that year of 7,104 animals. Total placements include animals adopted, sold or transferred to another public agency. Each animal successfully placed into private care is estimated to save taxpayers approximately $24,000 in lifetime off-range holding costs. That amounts to over $170 million in lifetime savings generated during Fiscal Year 2019 alone, in large measure due to the AIP.

 

“We’re excited that the public has responded so strongly to this innovative program. The successful use of incentives to increase adoption rates is a win for all involved – saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, reducing the overpopulation of wild horses and burros on the range, and helping these animals find homes with families who will care for and enjoy them for years to come,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond.

 

The AIP seeks to increase placements of wild horses or burros by paying individuals $1,000 for each untrained animal they adopt. Payments are made in two installments: $500 within 60 days of adoption, and $500 within 60 days of receiving title (approximately one year later). By contrast, it costs an average of $1,850 per year for the BLM to care for a wild horse or burro in an off-range corral facility.

 

“Placing animals into private care is a vital component of our mission to restore and maintain balance to America’s public lands where extensive wild horse and burro overpopulation threatens ecosystems, economies and even the health of the herds themselves,” said BLM’s Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Pendley. “The response we’ve seen to this incentive reveals how much the American people value wild horses and burros and understand the importance of BLM’s mission to properly manage them.”

 

Besides an increase in overall adoption numbers, the first year of the AIP also saw a sharp rise in the number of first-time and repeat adopters, as well as the number of individuals who adopted multiple animals. In all, there were 2,923 first-time adopters, 932 repeat adopters and 1,280 multiple-animal adoptions – all of which represent substantial increases over previous years.

 

Brad Smoot and his family, who live in Arco, Idaho, learned of the Adoption Incentive Program and ultimately adopted eight wild horses. They started their herd by adopting two weanlings and two 2-year-olds from the Boise Wild Horse Off-Range Corrals. The initial experience with BLM Wrangler Ruby Kyle was so positive they made a trip to Boise and adopted three more mares. The Smoots then adopted a pregnant mare during the wild horse adoption held in Challis the winter of 2020. Having grown up with Quarter horses and Tennessee Walkers, Brad Smoot knew he wanted his family to enjoy experiencing life with horses.

“Together my wife and I have eight children and we enjoy getting into the back country and trail riding,” said Brad. “These horses have been relatively easy to start. I really do prefer working with horses that do not have any developed or spoiled habits. My 15-year-old daughter has already started riding one of them.”

During the same time the agency ramped up other efforts to find good homes for more animals, including holding more events and offering more animals. Nationwide, there were a total of 223 adoption events held at BLM facilities, remote venues and online, at which 9,228 animals were offered. This also represents a substantial increase over previous years.

Under a 1971 law, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM is responsible for preserving and protecting these animals as part of a thriving natural ecological system on public lands. The agency achieves this objective primarily by gathering and removing excess animals from the range and offering them for adoption or purchase at facilities and events around the country.

 

As of March 1, 2019, the wild horse and burro population on public lands was estimated at more than 88,000, which is more than triple the number of animals the land can sustainably support in conjunction with other legally mandated uses, making every successful adoption or sale vitally important in helping the agency regain proper balance.

 

Given the extensive overpopulation, wild horses and burros routinely face starvation and death from lack of water. The high number of excess wild horses and burros causes habitat damage that forces animals to leave public lands and travel onto private property or even highways in search of food and water.

 

“The current overpopulation of wild horses and burros represents an existential threat to the health of landscapes across the West. In many places, the range will take decades to recover – and in some cases, it’s unlikely that it ever will,” said Pendley. “For this reason, the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program is critical to the health of native wildlife populations and the economic health of countless communities.”

 

When the number of animals removed from the range exceeds the number the agency can place through adoption or sale, the remaining animals are held in off-range corrals or contracted pastures at taxpayer expense. Currently there are approximately 50,000 wild horses and burros in off-range corrals and pastures. The cost of providing quality, humane care for these animals runs about $50 million annually.

 

To learn more about the wild horse or burro program, visit https://blm.gov/whb.

 

-BLM–

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

BLM invites public to virtual meeting on draft plan to conserve, restore Great Basin sagebrush communities - 05/13/20

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would like to remind members of the public that they still have 15 days left to participate in a virtual public meeting and submit comments on the Draft Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Great Basin. So far, more than 450 people have visited the meeting website and the BLM hopes that more people will visit before the end of the comment period on June 2, 2020. Please visit the virtual public meeting website and sign in on the Welcome page at https://www.virtualpublicmeeting.com/frrr-peis.

 

This programmatic analysis is intended to help the BLM more efficiently restore sagebrush communities in the Great Basin that have been degraded by cheatgrass and wildfire. Sagebrush communities are home to more than 350 species of wildlife and are treasured by hikers, hunters, ranchers and environmental groups. The Draft Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration programmatic environmental impact statement proposes ways to increase the BLM's capacity to restore and better protect them from wildfires.

 

The BLM welcomes public input on its ideas. Members of the public may review the PEIS on the Project website ( https://go.usa.gov/xdfgV) and submit questions (BLM_PEIS_Questions@blm.gov) and Comments (BLM_PEIS_Comments@blm.org) to help improve the Bureau’s ability to restore sagebrush communities. 

 

-BLM-

 

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals

BLM Seeks Public Comment on Proposed E-bike Regulations - 05/11/20

Due to current circumstances, Bureau of Land Management Officials are reminding the public that there is about a month remaining to comment on the proposed electric bike, or e-bike, regulations for the BLM. The comment period ends on June 9, 2020.

This effort is in line with Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior David Bernhardt’s call for the BLM and other Interior bureaus to expand access on public lands to e-bikes. The BLM will consider informative and unique feedback as part of crafting its final rule.

Interested parties may submit comments on the proposed regulation, identified by the number RIN 1004-AE72, by any of the following methods:

  • Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240, Attention:  RIN 1004-AE72.
  • Federal eRulemaking portal: Follow this link.

For additional information, please see the BLM National Office news release announcing the opening of the public comment period: https://www.blm.gov/press-release/blm-seeks-public-comment-proposed-e-bike-regulations.

Interior and Partners Commit to Long-Term Initiative to Conserve the American Bison - 05/07/20

10-year initiative provides framework for shared conservation goals

WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced the Bison Conservation Initiative (BCI), a new cooperative initiative that will coordinate conservation strategies and approaches for the wild American Bison over the next 10 years. The Department of the Interior (DOI) and its partners have been successful in restoring the populations of the American Bison and supporting healthy herds. With unprecedented interest and cooperation among partners – including states, tribes, nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – bison conservation is well equipped to move beyond the confluence of strong analytical assessments and toward coordinated conservation action.

“Interior is uniquely positioned to lead the way for shared stewardship of this iconic American species,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “This 10-year plan will guide our collaboration with states, tribes, private conservationists and managers across public lands to advance conservation efforts and honor iconic wild bison.”

Bison were hunted to near extinction in the late 19th century. Today, there are about 11,000 plains bison in 19 herds on 4.6 million acres of public land across 12 states because of successful public-private conservation partnerships. In 2016, Congress recognized the importance of the American Bison to the country’s history, celebrating it as our national mammal.

“We are doing something that has never been done. It shows what is possible when business, philanthropy, and government work together to create multiple bottom line initiatives supporting the environment, people, fiscal responsibility, and Native nation building,” said Rosebud Economic Development Corporation’s CEO, Wizipan Little Elk.

“The bison looms large in the culture and traditions of Native nations,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. “This announcement matters for several reasons: it represents a homecoming for this iconic species, and it’s also a reunion with the communities who lived with them for centuries in a symbiotic relationship. We are honored to be partners in this effort with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and we look forward to seeing the bison return to the Rosebud Reservation later this year.”

“We are living through unprecedented challenges; times that demand new ideas, new strategies, and deeper and more diverse partnership. Our collaboration with the Department of the Interior’s Bison Conservation Initiative embodies this and represents a pivotal approach to the conservation of a species that is vital to both our ecological and cultural heritage. Launching a collaborative strategy for the ecological and cultural recovery of our national mammal, a symbol of unity, resilience, and health, could not come at a better time for the American people and our unique natural heritage,” said Director of U.S. Conservation for  Wildlife Conservation Society, Cristina Mormorunni.

The DOI Bison Working Group (BWG) – comprised of representatives from the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Indian Affairs – has worked with its partners to strengthen resource coordination, institute a conservation genetics framework and publish investigations into metapopulation management and herd health.

The BWG will now:

  • Develop and launch a DOI bison metapopulation strategy
  • Develop and implement a DOI bison stewardship plan
  • Improve and expand mechanisms to support ecocultural restoration of live bison
  • Adopt low stress capture and handling practices

These actions will be organized around five central goals:

  • Wild, Healthy Bison Herds: A commitment to conserve bison as healthy wildlife.
  • Genetic Conservation: A commitment to an interagency, science-based approach to support genetic diversity across DOI bison conservation herds.
  • Shared Stewardship: A commitment to shared stewardship of wild bison in cooperation with states, tribes and other stakeholders.
  • Ecological Restoration: A commitment to establish and maintain large, wide-ranging bison herds on appropriate large landscapes where their role as ecosystem engineers shape healthy and diverse ecological communities. 
  • Cultural Restoration: A commitment to restore cultural connections to honor and promote the unique status of bison as an American icon for all people. 

As one of the BCI’s first actions, Secretary Bernhardt announced two bison transfers will take place later this year, demonstrating the focused direction toward enhanced intra-departmental cooperation and partnership. The transfer of bison among the Department’s herds and across bureaus maintains genetic diversity of wild bison populations, especially for smaller herds that are managed in isolation. These transfers will support ecological and cultural restoration of bison. 

The NPS and FWS will collaborate on the transfer of wild bison from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Translocated bison will be included in an on-going NPS genetics study to measure the extent of their integration into an existing herd.

For the second transfer, the DOI commits to donate wild bison to support the establishment of a new bison herd on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The Wolakota Buffalo Range will support ecological restoration, cultural practices, economic development, food security and public education on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. The new tribal herd is enabled by a cooperative project with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation and the World Wildlife Fund. 

For additional information about the science, benefits and goals of bison transfers, see thepopulation viability analysis conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, NPS and FWS that was also released today.

In addition to these field-based efforts, the BCI directs cooperating bureaus to develop and implement a science-based Department metapopulation strategy and work with states, tribes and NGOs to develop a shared stewardship plan that furthers ecological and cultural restoration of bison.

The 2020 Bison Conservation Initiative page provides additional information about how the DOI is working to improve the conservation and management of bison.

###

BLM announces 2020 Fire Prevention Order - 05/06/20

Portland, Ore. – Effective May 10, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is prohibiting the use of fireworks, target shooting with exploding targets, and firing tracer or incendiary devices on all BLM-managed public lands throughout Oregon and Washington. The prohibition will remain in effect until October 31.

“BLM-managed public lands start to see more visitors in May due to the beautiful weather, especially during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. This annual fire prevention order reminds people to be fire-wise to reduce the number of human-caused wildfires in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jose Linares, acting State Director, BLM Oregon/Washington. “In dry conditions, sparks can spread quickly from fireworks or exploding targets, putting people, wildlife, and habitats at risk.”

Those who violate the prohibition can be fined up to $1,000 and/or receive a prison term of up to one year. In addition, people responsible for starting wildland fires on federal lands can be billed for the cost of fire suppression. An incendiary device is defined as any firebomb or device designed or specially adapted to cause physical harm to persons or property by means of fire, consisting of an incendiary substance or agent and a means to ignite it. Examples include, but are not limited to, flamethrowers, Molotov cocktails, or accelerants.

According to the current Northwest Coordination Center (NWCC) Seasonal Outlook, precipitation has been below normal in most areas except for western Washington and Northeast Oregon during the 2019-2020 winter. Drought designated areas are expanding and worsening across Oregon and eastern Washington. Early Spring rains have temporarily suppressed fire danger in the dry spots east of the Cascades and in southwest Oregon but have not erased the overall moisture deficit. Spring and Summer climate outlooks portray warmer and drier conditions than typical for the region. Higher-than-usual large fire risk is anticipated in sections of Oregon and eastern Washington.

 

-BLM–

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals. 

Attached Media Files: BLM Fire Prevention Order 2020