Slickspot peppergrass and the sage grouse will be a step further toward extinction because of the huge Murphy Fire burning in SW Idaho.
Huge fire ravages rare species habitat. By Cynthia Sewel. Idaho Statesman.

The only place in the world that slickspot peppergrass grows is southwest Idaho.

More Idaho fire news.

Governor declares state of emergency declared in five counties. Idaho Statesman.

Today’s Inciweb update on the Murphy Fire complex. Some progress at containment has been made, especially on the north side.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

3 Responses to Huge Murphy Fire ravages rare species habitat

  1. Look…I’m stupid when it comes to plants and how they reestablish their range. But from what I’m reading in the article and common sense says:
    1. Slickspot peppergrass only grows in southwest Idaho.
    2. Fires have burned through southwest Idaho for eons.
    3. Slickspot peppergrass has survived these eons of wildfires/brushfires/range fires.

    With that said, don’t you thing nature provided a mechanism for Slickspot peppergrass to regenerate “after” fire?

    I’m all for protecting plants and animals from extinction but we hear stories like this on a semi regular basis. Then low and behold, 1 year after a fire or natural disaster the plant comes storming back to life and in some cases, more robust than before the fires.

    The big fires in Yellowstone is a prime example of this media circus that sensationalizes the mundane. All I heard for weeks and weeks was Yellowstone was ruined and lost forever. Our Flagship National Park will never survive this type of burn. Yes, I’m sure Yellowstone is still feeling the effects of the fires but I was out there last year and it did seem that it has recovered nicely and hear that some species of plants and animals are actually thriving beyond belief.

    What say the experts in this field. Why did this Slickspot peppergrass survive for 100’s of years in a fire prone region and now it will be “ravaged”. To read the headlines and the story, I’m expecting this rare plant will be forever gone.

    Clue me in.

  2. Red Onion,

    I am glad to clue you in, as you suggested.

    I guess you missed all posts and commentary about how slickspot peppergrass was not in danger until years of abusive livestock grazing.

    The frequency of range fires has increased dramatically with the invasion of cheatgrass into the overgrazed areas. There is much more than peppergrass that is going down in SW Idaho. It’s just that the newspaper focused on sage grouse and slickspot peppergrass.

    Range fires and forest fires are different. You can make a good argument that many forest fires are often beneficial in the long run, but frequent range fires fueled with non-native flammable bromes like cheat grass are not.

    Earlier I posted a long pdf file on slickspot peppergrass on this blog. I hope you will locate it and find the contents informative.

  3. avatar kt says:

    The invasive species ike cheatgrass from Asia that thrive in zones of livestock disturbance, and fire disturbance, blow away any “Natural” fire regimes. Slickspot peppergrass and the sagebrush ecosystem evolved in the ABSENCE of cheatgrass.

    Cattle and sheep grazing and trampling disturbance prime sagebrush wild lands for cheatgrass invasion and eventual dominance.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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