Some seek more grazing to prevent wildland fires
March 1, 2013
The Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee was urged Thursday to approve resolutions calling on Congress to allow broader use of grazing to prevent fires on public lands.
AJR4 was the product of an interim study on the subject that Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said had widespread support from everyone from ranchers to environmentalists. She said it asks Congress to expand the use of grazing on public lands and provide other methods of reducing available fuels – primarily cheat grass – that cause those fires.
“It addresses grazing as one of the components of fighting wildfires,” she said.
Carlton said the other measure, AJR2, is “a lot more grazing-oriented.”
Supporters of both measures included Eureka and Esmeralda county officials, the Nevada Association of Counties and the state’s agriculture and livestock associations.
AJR4 even received a thumbs-up from longtime environmental activist Tina Nappe.
AJR2 was introduced by Elko Assemblyman John Ellison and Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka, both Republicans.
“We’ve got to do something that reduces (fire) fuels,” Goicoechea said.
After a wildfire, he said, the Bureau of Land Management typically orders a grazing allotment shut down for two years, but doing that just allows cheat grass to come back and make the area vulnerable to another fire.
He said his allotment in Mitchell Creek has burned three times in the past seven years.
Grazing, he said, could reduce the cheat grass enough to prevent another fire.
Goicoechea said BLM should be persuaded to allow “short-term, intensive grazing” in those types of areas so cattle and sheep can get rid of the fuels, helping to prevent a fire long enough to allow other plants such as sagebrush to recover.
Repeated fires effectively sterilize the ground so nothing will grow there, Goicoechea said.
The two-year bar, he said, should be replaced with two growing seasons – a shorter period in most cases.
Doing something about wildfires also will help the state’s efforts to prevent listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species, given that the fire is one of the biggest dangers to the bird, Carlton said.
“It’s another arrow in the quiver,” she said.
Nappe said she doesn’t like the blanket push to increase grazing in AJR2 because not all grazing on public lands is “virtuous.”
The committee took no action on the two joint resolutions.