New rest area signs warn of dangers of human-caused fires
The Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission has installed several large signs at two rest areas along I-84 to educate the public on the impacts of human-caused fires. The two rest stops are near the Black's Creek exit, east of Boise, and near Bliss.
"All it takes is someone tossing a burning cigarette out the window of a car to ignite a wildfire that can do a huge amount of damage to Idaho's rangelands," said Gretchen Hyde, Executive Director of the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, a state agency. "Once the native shrub-steppe habitat burns, cheatgrass and other non-native annual weeds move in, making the area even more prone to catching fire again.
Wildfires are bad for Idaho's rangelands because they burn up perennial grasses and sagebrush that's critical for wildlife such as sage-grouse and wintering mule deer. Plus, many ranchers in Idaho depend on public and private rangelands for raising livestock. Wildfires can cause big financial losses for ranchers, Hyde says. That negatively affects Idaho’s rural economies.
The IRRC also is exploring long-term solutions to restoring repeatedly burned rangelands that are now full of cheatgrass and noxious weeds.