Agencies work with ranchers to protect land |

Agencies work with ranchers to protect land

Sandi Hoover

With so much moisture this winter, fire agencies are gearing up for what could turn into a dangerous fire season, and in many cases, government agencies work with farmers and ranchers to minimize risks.

“This year, next year or sometime in the near future, we’ll have a bad fire season” said Michael Klug of the Nevada Division of Forestry.

Mark Struble, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Land Management’s Carson District Office, said there are agreements with local farmers and ranchers mainly in the Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Elko districts to do first response.

“We deal with some of the fires that happen out there. It’s a little different over there than with our urban interface.” Struble said. “We don’t have as many of the big ranches, and certainly not farms that I know of in this area, that we’d have fire suppression responsibility for.”

When it comes to protecting private lands, Bob Bird, assistant fire management officer for the Carson City District of the BLM, said it is more the responsibility of local fire departments.

“They don’t have fire safe councils like they do in Carson City, so they use the closest resources. We might send in an aircraft or engine if it’s needed, but if a wildland fire threatens their property, all bets are off, and we usually set up a joint command,” Bird said.

“Right now, we’re doing fuels treatment in Smith Valley 1,000-feet deep off BLM land. And we help train some fire support groups and get grants for radios. Winnemucca is really good at getting those grants,” he said.

A District 473, such as in Carson City or Storey County, is run by a government agency for a county.

Bird said fire agencies generally beef up their crews during fire season to about 50 seasonal employees, 20 of whom are with the Silver State Hot Shots. Other on-call crews, known as AD crews – for administratively determined – also provide support each year.

“BLM and NDF both rely on those crews,” Bird said.

Mike Klug, fire management officer for NDF’s office in Washoe Valley, said NDF does a lot of work with the Nevada Cattlemen’s Associ-ation in northeast Nevada.

“We also have several rangeland drills they can borrow,” he said.

The drill is used by ranchers, where there have been fires, to mow down the highly flammable cheat grass which grows quickly, spray it and replant with perennial grasses which stay green longer, he said.

“These fuel breaks we call green strips,” Klug said. “And in the northeast part of the state, we do a lot of work together with ranchers. After fires, we usually try to help with the rehab.”

Klug said ranchers also can apply for grant money to be able to use NDF crews to work on their property.

“We have a seed bank at our nursery in Washoe Valley which can be used for

planting after fires or for ranchers who want to replace noxious species,” he said.

Eric Roussel, biomass/-seed bank coordinator at the nursery, said there is a wide variety of options available

at the seed bank for fire rehab, as well as for the rancher who might want a higher-value forage for his livestock.