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Bureau of Land Management plan reduces fire risk, protects native plant

by Tim Balk, New York Daily News |

As a year of hellish wildfires in the U.S. West draws to a close, officials released a vegetation plan Friday that could serve as a curb on flames that have rippled through the region.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said its plan would help to protect sagebrush, a family of shrubs native to the arid spaces of the American West.

Sagebrush has been replaced by other plants over the years, creating new environments where blazes spread more explosively.

The plan has an effect on hundreds of millions of acres in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.

“This effort focused on reducing fuels and restoring natural vegetation will reduce the intensity of wildfires, which in turn will reduce the threats from large and severe wildfires,” Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals for the Department of the Interior, said in a statement.

The plan is not without critics. Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, an environmental watchdog, expressed concerns about a lack of oversight for a proposal that could hurt wildlife.

“With this project, the BLM is clearly trying to write itself a blank check to do large and damaging vegetation removal without any further input or detailed analysis,” Molvar said, according to The Associated Press.