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BOISE -- New legislation has been introduced to help form groups of ranchers legally allowed to fight rangeland fires. These Rangeland Fire Protection Associations are legally permitted and trained to fight fires.

The first Rangeland Fire Protection Association in Idaho was formed in Mountain home in 2012. The Governor and the Idaho Department of Lands hope new efforts will help start more groups.

In 2000, a fire in Dietrich caused a half million-dollar loss for this rancher, and killed most of his cattle. In 2007, the Murphy Complex Fire killed 50 cattle on this ranch and forced the rancher to sell many others after it charred his land.

Ranchers a lot of time are out where the action is, they can get to the start of a fire more quickly than the BLM or the Idaho Department of Lands, said Emily Callihan, of the Idaho Department of Lands.

Rangeland Fire Protection Associations are legally allowed to use interagency fire resources, and they are trained by the Bureau of Land Management to fight fires.

The ranchers definitely are an excellent resource for both federal and state fire fighting agencies when it comes to initial attack response, said Callihan.

Ranchers have so much at stake as flames creep close to their land, but it also helps first responders.

It also of course improves response time and saves resources, Callihan said. Statewide about 1.7 million acres burned in Idaho and much of that was rangeland in Southern Idaho.

Governor Otter is taking action to encourage the formation of more Rangeland Fire Protection Associations.

Governor Otter has included a $400,000 budget request in his budget that he submitted to the legislature this session that includes start-up costs for the initial start-up of more RFPA's in Idaho, said Callihan

The Idaho Department of Lands is bringing a bill this session that will clarify the laws on these fire protection associations.

Alongside the Governor's budget request this will facilitate much easier creation of more Rangeland Fire Protection Associations, Callihan said.

The $400,000 Governor Otter is requesting would go toward training, equipment, and communications gear, along with covering legal documentation to establish the groups.

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