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BLM partners with ranchers for fire prevention in Soda Fire burn area

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 17:31:48-04
It's been nearly two years since the Soda Fire devastated more than 400 square miles of land in southwest Idaho and Oregon.
 
If you drive by it now, you might not even notice what was once miles of devastation. Ranchers and farmers in the area are still trying to recover from the effects the soda fire had on the land, and in order to prevent another fire like the Soda Fire, they are stepping up in a big way.
 
This year for the first time the BLM has partnered with local ranchers in the area bringing in cattle to help keep down the grasses for what will be fire breaks.
 
The BLM said this partnership allows them the opportunity to work together with the ranchers. 
 
"They are taking ownership in this because they don't want to see a repeated fire on this landscape for multiple reasons. They are being part of the solution to the problem," said Lance Okeson with the BLM.
 
While it may seem easy, after saddling up reporter Lacey Darrow learned the hard way that it is not.
 
There is actually a lot of logic of the land that has to go into it.
 
"You've gotta know your surroundings that's for sure," said Cowboy Howard Sevy. "A lot of people just see grass, but timing and knowing when they will eat what plant is the key to the whole thing."
 
And they have to keep the cattle in a targeted area.
 
"There is leaders and followers and troublemakers," said Howard. "They're just the same as humans."
 
"You've got 250 different minds out there that they might be dummies but those cattle all have different ideas. Trying to keep them from just going off and finding the next little green patch of grass, it takes quite a bit of training and a lot of work," said Rancher Ted Blackstock.
 
While the ranchers are not paying grazing fees for the land, it actually costs them more money to do this type of work.
 
"It's been quite a bit more because we have had to haul water and hire cowboys to watch them every day so it's been pretty expensive," said Blackstock, but he said it's all worth it to keep the area from burning again. 
 
The ranchers got a late start this year, but they said through trial and error, they hope to bring the program back and better next year.