Best of the West: Preparing for wildfire season; healthy snowpack supplies Colorado River; Nevada & New Mexico boost renewables

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As western states prepare for wildfire season, new tools are helping firefighters and land managers assess danger and respond rapidly. In the Pacific Northwest, The National Fire Danger Rating System is getting its first update in more than 40 years. The new system will generate readings from weather stations without requiring a person to be present to help forest managers determine levels of fire danger.

In California, a weather satellite taking photos every five minutes can show hotspots and could potentially alert residents of a blaze.

Wildfire, renewable energy

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Groups Push for Votes on NV Renewable-Energy, Public-Lands Bills

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CARSON CITY, Nev. - Friday is the deadline for bills to make it out of committee at the state Capitol, so conservation groups are drumming up support for those that address renewable energy and protection for wildlife habitat.

Senate Bill 358 would require power companies to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Brian Beffort, director of the Sierra Club's Toiyabe Chapter, said the state now spends $4 billion a year importing electricity from fossil fuels, when it could be relying on renewable power generated in Nevada.

renewable energy, Nevada

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Acting Secretary Bernhardt Signs Order to Prioritize Implementation of Bipartisan Public Lands Bill

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WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed a secretarial order to establish a Departmental task force to facilitate and prioritize the implementation of S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Dingell Act). The bill was made up of more than 100 individual bills that were introduced by 50 Senators and several House members. The Interior Department had advocated for in concept or worked with Members of Congress on many of the individual provisions that made up the package.

Secretarial Order 3374, Implementation of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act establishes a task force to ensure the timely and coordinated implementation of the Dingell Act and consistency among all offices and Bureaus within the Department of the Interior.

Public Lands, Department of Interior

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Acting Secretary Bernhardt Signs Order to Ensure Public Access is Considered in Land Transactions

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WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed a secretarial order directing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adequately weigh public access for outdoor recreation – including hunting and fishing – when determining the appropriateness of the disposal or exchange of public lands. Identifying lands as available for disposal or exchange is required under federal law.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) directs the BLM to identify lands for potential disposal or exchange, using a public process and with state and county involvement. BLM has carried out these provisions revising land use plans and disposal since 1976. However, the BLM’s criteria do not require the agency to weigh public access considerations for outdoor recreation (fishing, hunting, hiking, etc.).

BLM, Public Lands

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Wildfire risk in California no longer coupled to winter precipitation

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Wet winters no longer predict possible relief from severe wildfires for California, according to a new study from an international team that includes a University of Arizona scientist.

From 1600 to 1903, the position of the North Pacific jet stream over California was linked to the amount of winter precipitation and the severity of the subsequent wildfire season, the team found. Wet winters brought by the jet stream were followed by low wildfire activity, and dry winters were generally followed by higher wildfire activity. After 1904, the connection between winter moisture brought by the jet stream from December through February and the severity of the wildfire season weakened. The weakened connection between precipitation and wildfires corresponds to the onset of a fire suppression policy on U.S. federal lands, the team reports in the March 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

California, Wildfire, Climate Change

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