Alexandra Pitts 916-414-6619
With the 2008 fire season upon us, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California and Nevada Region is clarifying how to handle fire situations when endangered or threatened species may be involved. 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.
Although predictions are for a relatively normal season, the dry months of March and April have caused a large crop of annual grasses to dry earlier than normal. On May 22, Steve Thompson, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California and Nevada region sent a memorandum to all field personnel reminding them about priorities and procedures.
"In emergency situations our first concern is always for public safety," said Thompson "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."
Service personnel are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, Tribes, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, California Department of Forestry, the 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 http://www.fws.gov/cno/fire/.