A BLM photo reveals the devastation brought by the Soda Fire.
The author of a viral Facebook post criticizing the federal government for its land management practices blasted the Bureau of Land Management in an interview Tuesday.
Alan Davis, owner and operator of Greybell Farms near Marsing, scorched federal officials for their failure to manage Idaho lands properly, which he said contributed to the Soda Fire’s massive size.
“We have a bunch of people making decisions on wildlife, habitat, grazing and land management, and they have no practical experience,” Davis said. “They have no clue how the world really works.”
Davis’ comments came as firefighters worked vigorously to fully contain the massive blaze, the nation’s largest this year. The fire burned more than 283,000 acres and the federal government lists the blaze as 95 percent contained.
Nearly 900 firefighters, aided by helicopters, air support, bulldozers and water trucks, fought the catastrophic fire.
It didn’t have to be this bad, Davis suggested.
“If Bureau of Land Management is not going to take an active management role … then they need to get the heck out of the way and let ranchers or somebody take care of the land,” he said. He criticized federal officials for letting fuel loads, or burnable material, pile up.
“If you leave this land alone, the Russian thistle is going to take over,” he said. “When it continues to compound year after year, it stays standing up until something eats it or burns.”
Davis, using the Greybell Farms Facebook page, complained about federal mismanagement in a post that has since gone somewhat viral.
“Tell your college kid wizards of smart to get out from behind their desks and come out to get some practical education from the men and women who live here,” Davis railed in the post, shared more than 1,800 times on Facebook.
Davis is one of the lucky ones, if anyone involved could be so described. The Soda Fire came within two miles of Davis’ small swine operation. He said a friend, a rancher, suffered greatly.
“He was hoping he’d only lost half his herd of cattle,” Davis said.
He’s not the only party complaining, though.
The Idaho Cattle Association blasted federal shortcomings in its own Facebook post last week. “These fires are largely a result of the federal government’s management framework,” the group said. “We will never be able to stop all wildfires, but we can curb catastrophic fires in the future through grazing.”
That post, shared 763 times, described what the association identifies as a core problem in land management.
“In times of drought, ranchers are asked to reduce grazing herds, but that flexibility does not exist when a wet spring creates late summer fuels,” the association wrote. “In those circumstances ranchers are not asked to increase grazing herds to utilize excess fuels.”
Even President Barack Obama’s administration feels the heat over western fires. The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent a letter to the White House criticizing federal land practices.
“The severe mismanagement of federally-owned forests and rangelands, due to outdated environmental laws and regulations along with the abuse of the legal system by radical special interest groups, has created devastating economic hardship and danger for our members and rural communities across the west,” the August 17 letter said.
Back in Idaho, Davis said if he can’t get the BLM out of his way, he’d like to see more collaboration among ranchers, fire districts, highway agencies, the state and the federal government to ensure fire loads don’t grow extremely dangerous.
“Ranchers are the ones who depend on this ground for their livelihood,” Davis said. “They’re not going to destroy it. The caretaker with the most to lose will take the best care of it.”
Asked to sum up the Soda Fire in a single word, he chose two: “Catastrophic and devastating.”
“We outdoorsmen have lost a tremendous amount of recreational ground and habitat for wildlife,” he added.
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