Alexandra Pitts: 916-414-6619
With the 2007 fire season well under way and the South Lake Tahoe fire still burning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is clarifying how to handle situations when endangered or threatened species may be involved.
Recently, Steve Thompson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California and Nevada Operation Manager sent a memorandum to all land management agency managers as well as local fire authorities emphasizing priorities and procedures.
In emergency situations our first concern is always for public safety," said Steve Thompson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California and Nevada Operation Manager. "When a wildfire occurs and there are endangered or threatened species involved, fire responders do not need to delay emergency responses. Our approach is to do everything possible to help in safeguarding our firefighters, people and communities."
Even when the Lake Tahoe fire is fully contained, the fire danger throughout the western United States will remain high. Service personnel are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, Tribes, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, California Department of Forestry, Nevada Department of Forestry, county officials and others, to expedite the consultation process for emergency situations. The Service will follow the emergency consultation process as detailed in Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which states that formal consultation will be initiated as soon as practicable after the emergency is under control.
In addition to providing consultations on endangered and threatened species, the Service has a long-standing role in fire prevention, hazardous fuels reduction, fire preparedness and response.
The Service completes annual fire readiness reviews of all fire personnel located at the National Wildlife Refuges throughout California and Nevada. Fire staff complete training, prepare fire equipment, and work to improve communications with interagency and local fire authorities. The Service's hazardous fuels reduction projects include prescribed burning, mechanical, and biological treatments such as grazing. These projects work to reduce hazardous levels of vegetation, increase defensible space, enhance habitat and protect communities and property from catastrophic wildfire. Defensible space is the area around a structure that has been landscaped to reduce fire danger.
To find out more about the Service's fire program in California and Nevada, visit www.fws.gov/cno/fire/.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.