Best of the West: Wildfire risks for western lands; Wyoming recognized for stunning scenery; states confront invasive species

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting June 3, 2019 that you don't want to miss.

Billions of acres of land are susceptible to catastrophic wildfire, according to U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. As blazes become more frequent and ongoing, the idea of a clearly defined season for wildfire is ending. “There’s not any place that we’re really at a fire season,” she said.  

The agency is prioritizing treatment and mitigation, mostly in western states, by thinning trees, clearing fuel materials and using prescribed burns on 80 million acres. In Utah, the Forest Service unveiled the state’s largest logging project in years to clear out beetle-ravaged trees. “By removing these dead spruce we can improve vital community watersheds and reduce the threat of uncharacteristic wildfire,” said Ryan Nehl, supervisor of the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

Across the West, native sagebrush is being replaced by invasive cheatgrass, fueling destructive rangeland fires. In northern Nevada, more than 800,000 acres of sagebrush have burned in the past two years. To confront this challenge, the state is poised to allocate additional funding for wildfire prevention and recovery.  

Protection from Feral Pigs: Invasive feral swine, already a significant challenge for Canada, are keeping Montana land managers on edge as they creep closer to the border. “Wild pigs can cause soil erosion, degrade water quality, destroy crops, and prey on small mammals, amphibians and birds," said researcher Ruth Aschim. Learn more by watching the WGA workshop session, International Coordination on Feral Swine Management.

Cowboy State Close-Up: For the first time in its history, the top three prize winners and most popular fan favorite of the National Park Foundation’s Share the Experience photo competition were all taken in Wyoming. More than 1,400 amateur photographers submitted their shots from federal recreation sites, wildlife refuges and national forests to the annual competition. View the winning snapshots. 

Pulling Out the Stops for Salmon: To save the Columbia River salmon, Pacific Northwest scientists are taking aim at invasive pike. “Native species here haven’t evolved to deal with a predator that’s quite like pike,” said Travis Rehm, a fisheries biologist with the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Learn about the “all hands-on deck” approach by six agencies to confront the toothy invader. 

An Early American Environmental Pioneer: George Bird Grinnell, one of America’s “greatest conservationists,” is remembered in a new biography by John Taliaferro. Born in 1849, Grinnell was instrumental in early western wildlife habitat preservation efforts, as well as the founding of the Audubon Society and Boone and Crockett Club.

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