Bison Fire Threatens Sage Grouse; Containment Grows

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Nev. -- Due to improved mapping, the estimate of the Bison Fire burn area has been reduced from 7,000 acres to just over 6,300 acres.

Still, it tripled in acreage in 24 hours. Winds are pushing it to the north, but it's now 30% contained.

Crews continue the battle to save 20 structures but they're also trying to save a bird that calls the area home.

A stretch of mountains from Carson City south to Bishop is home to the Bi-State Sage Grouse.

"There's not many birds up there, there is an immense amount of research going on up there to see every little detail of the bird's life cycle and to see just now healthy the population is," said Matt Spaulding with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

DNA testing has shown the Bi-State Sage Grouse to be different from the Greater Sage Grouse, so it's is on track to be added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's threatened species list, But that's only if it makes it. Prime territory for the bird is just over the ridge from the Bison Fire

"If it crests the top of the pine nuts and goes into the east slope, it will go directly into the Sage Grouse's premier habitat really," said Spaulding

The bird's presence can affect firefighting operations, including where a fire line can be cut, and how, but ultimately fire crews have a greater goal.

"The Sierra Fire Management Team is working with the wildlife manager to make sure we meet all their needs with protecting the Sage Grouse habitat as much as possible, but still continuing on fighting the fire and containing the fire as much as possible," said Mark Regan with Sierra Front.

Understandably, the safety of firefighters and the public is the first priority. Next is structures; the Sage Grouse is further down the line, but still important. Their best habitat is listed on fire maps so crews know what area to protect.

"No habitat, no home, no home, no bird," said Spaulding

It's a step that aims to make sure the Bison Fire doesn't decimate a population.