|Antelope and sage grouse in sagebrush. Photo: Sage Grouse Initiative|
A year after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell shifted the national approach to fighting wildfires across a wide swath of sagebrush country in the West, her strategy is turning out to be one of the most significant federal land policy changes in some 80 years.
The order she issued last January cited consistency with the Cohesive Strategy and directed federal resources for the first time to fight massive blazes in open sagebrush steppe habitat that supports cattle ranching, recreation and some 350 species of wildlife, including the imperiled sage grouse.
Ranchers are backing Jewell's order too and have formed Rangeland Fire Protections Associations, teaming up with federal firefighters to stop small fires from exploding and charring forage needed by cattle.