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Drought-stricken Utah draws visit from top BLM officials

A prolonged drought in the West is prompting a visit from the director of the Bureau of Land Management and his deputy director. Multiple meetings will be held in Utah, Nevada and Idaho.
A prolonged drought in the West is prompting a visit from the director of the Bureau of Land Management and his deputy director. Multiple meetings will be held in Utah, Nevada and Idaho.
Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The parched ranges of western Utah and two other states are drawing a visit from top officials with the Bureau of Land Management, who plan to see firsthand the devastating impacts of a four-year drought.

The national director of the BLM, Neil Kornze, was briefed on the drought and on what sort of preparations are being carried out for the upcoming wildfire season. He was in Boise to meet with authorities at the National Interagency Fire Center and is determining the extent of measures that will be put into place to protect sage grouse habitat from the onslaught of what is expected to be an active wildfire season.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued an order that directs use of the best science to protect sage-grouse sensitive lands from wildfire, which is among the top threats to the chicken-size bird.

“This fire season could be quite challenging, and we need to be coordinated and prepared,” Kornze said in statement released after his briefing. “I grew up right here in the Great Basin, and I’m glad to have this opportunity to see familiar country and to visit with local ranchers, county commissioners and other key stakeholders. I look forward to discussions about how we can best collaborate to address drought issues in a way that allows for continued uses of the public lands and responsible management.”

Kornze is accompanied by his deputy director Steve Ellis. The two are planning to meet with local leaders in both Utah and Nevada. Of the five Great Basin states, Utah, Idaho and Nevada are 99 percent impacted by severe drought.

After touring the fire center in Boise, Ellis plans to meet with Box Elder County elected officials and ranchers to see restoration efforts that have reduced the proliferation of cheat grass and resulted in juniper removal at Dove Creek and other areas of the county. In addition, Ellis will visit Juab County to discuss local issues that include law enforcement.

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