BLM issues policy to reduce wildfire risk around power lines on public lands

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Building on the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to reduce the threat of wildfires through active management, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) California State Office today issued a new policy to limit fire risk from power lines crossing BLM-managed public lands.

The policy provides guidance for effective operations and maintenance actions, such as vegetation management and pole replacement, within and adjacent to electric transmission and distribution line rights-of-way, also known as ROWs.

“This policy will reduce the risk of wildfire associated with various hazards in and around powerline rights-of-way by enabling utilities to more efficiently manage their operations and maintenance activities in such areas,” said Acting State Director Joe Stout.  “It will also enhance the reliability of the electric grid by allowing for the removal of hazardous fuel loads, which may be a threat to transmission and distribution lines.”

The BLM administers nearly 17,000 ROWs for electric transmission and distribution lines across more than 70,000 miles in the eleven contiguous western states and Alaska. These ROWs often contain or are adjacent to hazards that may pose a fire threat. If not properly maintained, hazards—including but not limited to overgrown vegetation—can make contact with power lines and start a wildfire.

To reduce this hazard, in 2018 Congress amended the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) by adding specific agency requirements for administering powerline ROWs. The policy is part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order (S.O.) 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct the BLM and other Interior agencies to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands. The new BLM California policy accomplishes these tasks by clarifying that utilities can conduct operation and maintenance activities to prevent and suppress wildfire immediately, without an additional authorization from the BLM. The new policy also includes updated guidance on ROW holders’ activities for preventing wildfire in and around a ROW.

The new policy is available on the BLM website at the following link: https://www.blm.gov/policy/ca-2020-005

This new policy affects BLM managed public lands in eleven western states.

BLM, Wildfire, power

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