Interior secretary orders new approach to fighting destructive wildfires that protects bird

Associated Press

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is calling for a new wildfire-fighting strategy that protects sagebrush country in the intermountain West that supports cattle ranching as well as a struggling bird species.

She issued an order Tuesday seeking a "science-based" strategy that safeguards the greater sage grouse while contending with fires that have been especially destructive in the Great Basin region of Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California.

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Greater sage grouse range across 11 Western states and two Canadian provinces. Oil and gas drilling, wildfires, livestock grazing and other activities have consumed more than half the bird's habitat over the past century.

Jewell's order creates a task force and sets a March 1 deadline for it to report on actions to be put in place for the 2015 wildfire season.