Environmentalists move toward lawsuit over fuel break plan

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RENO, Nevada (AP) – Environmentalists have filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. government to block plans to build 17,700 miles of fuel cuts that they say violate the Endangered Species Act. disappearance in a misguided effort to slow the advance of wildfires in six western states.

Leaders from four conservation groups say the Bureau of Land Management’s project would be immune from legitimate environmental scrutiny as part of last-minute measures by the outgoing Trump administration.

They say fuel cuts associated with clearcutting, herbicide spraying, grazing and prescribed fire could threaten the survival of more than 100 rare wildlife species in potentially more than 340,000 square miles (880,595 km2) of land. federal lands – an area twice the size of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio combined.

Fuel cuts involve clearing areas of vegetation to slow the progression of fires.

As wide as 500 feet (152 meters), breaks are provided along federal roads and rights-of-way in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah. If the 17,700 km (11,000 miles) are completed, the cumulative outages would stretch the equivalent distance between Seattle and South Africa.

“The Trump administration’s reckless 11am decision allows the office to use highly destructive methods to remove millions of acres of native trees and shrubs,” said Scott Lake, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity at the Nevada. “This is a blatant violation of the Endangered Species Act, and we will not allow these plans to come true.”

Lawyers for the center, the Sierra Club, the Western Watersheds Project and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance gave 60 days’ notice of the intention to sue the office in a letter on Tuesday. He challenged the exclusions that the administration included in the environmental impact statements published in February for fuel breaks and in November for fuel reduction and course restoration.

The groups say the office and its Home Office did not consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding impacts to threatened and endangered aquatic species, as required by law. They say the ministry has recognized that more than 130 protected species are found in the area, including the sage grouse, and acknowledged that many of the proposed methods, such as targeted grazing, are unproven.

“The two projects put together constitute a great experiment in intensive land management on a scale never attempted before,” the groups wrote to Home Secretary David Bernhardt and Director of Services Aurelia Skipwith.

Bureau officials defended the effort on Wednesday.

“Addressing the threat to Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems from fire and invasive grasses using a variety of management actions and tools is a critical part of BLM’s multipurpose mission,” said Agency spokeswoman Alyse Sharpe said in a statement.

Environmental impact statements developed over the past four years “will allow land managers to select the approaches that make the most sense for their specific communities and landscapes,” the statement said.

More than 21,000 square miles (54,389 km2) of office land burned in the area from 2008 to 2018, the agency said. He said evaluations of more than 1,200 fuel cuts dating back to 2002 found that 78% helped control forest fires and 84% helped change fire behavior.

Paul Ruprecht, Oregon-Nevada director for the Western Watersheds Project, said the work would likely spread invasive weeds, including aromatic herbs that are prone to fire.

“Using cows to mow dirt level vegetation to reduce fuel will not work,” Ruprecht said ….

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