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  • Idaho & smoke management

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Department of Agriculture
    is promising several improvements in the state's smoke-management
    plan for this year's bluegrass burning season.
    Last year's program was sharply criticized by clean air
    activists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing
    to protect people from field smoke.
    Safe Air for Everyone, a Sandpoint group with 1,200 members
    formed last year to fight field burning, called last year's program
    a complete failure.
    John Iani, EPA's regional director, also criticized Idaho for
    allowing widespread unauthorized burning on both burn and no-burn
    days last year.
    The season is scheduled to start Aug. 1. Farmers burn to
    encourage new grass production and kill pests. They can burn only
    on certain days and under in late summer and early fall.
    More than 74,280 acres were burned statewide last year,
    including 5,462 acres in Kootenai County and 30,000 acres on the
    Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation. The tribe has its own smoke
    management program.
    Idaho is the last state in the region to allow significant
    amounts of bluegrass burning. The practice has been largely banned
    in Washington and sharply curtailed in Oregon for health reasons.
    This year's revised program keeps fire as a tool for farmers
    while minimizing the impact of smoke on Idaho's citizens, said
    Agriculture Department director Pat Takasugi.
    Farmers in 10 northern counties must comply with stricter rules,
    including penalties for noncompliance.
    A first-time violator will be prohibited from burning any
    acreage for a year. Further violation within a three-year period
    would trigger a civil penalty up to $10,000.
    "I am confident that the addition of a penalty to the program
    will even further strengthen our efforts," Takasugi said.
    The program will be partially funded through a $1 an acre burn
    registration program, expected to generate $70,000 a year from
    bluegrass growers. The agency is also applying for grant money,
    said spokeswoman Julie Pipal.
    The department will use the radio and the Internet to notify
    people of burn days.
    Last year, there were seven days of field burning in North
    Idaho, Pipal said.
    "We hope by streamlining the program this year, we'll be able
    to make it even shorter," she said.
    But critics say the state program is underfunded and inadequate
    to chase field burning violations in 10 Idaho counties. They are
    also uneasy that the Legislature transferred the smoke management
    program from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to the
    Agriculture Department.
    Seattle attorney Steve Berman has launched a constitutional
    challenge to a section of the new state law, HB 391, that gives
    farmers "safe harbor" from liability for making people sick when
    they burn their fields.
    Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed the bill in April.
    Oral arguments in the constitutional challenge start Thursday in
    1st District Court.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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