Wildfires destroy nearly a quarter-million acres of rangeland in southern Idaho every year. Sen. James McClure says it's time to take a new approach to the problem - developing new shrubs and grasses that are both edible and fire-resistant.

He's looking to the University of Idaho for answers, and is hoping to provide university researchers with funding to look into the problem.At McClure's request, $250,000 for research and development of range forage has been included in the Interior appropriations bill approved by the Senate last week.

"The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have done limited research on wildfire-resistant plants. With this money, I expect those agencies and researchers at the university to cooperate and achieve results we wouldn't have otherwise," McClure said.

If the money wins congressional approval and is signed by the president, funding will be split between work at the Forest Service's Intermountain Research Station at Provo, Utah, and the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences at Moscow.

The House and Senate are expected to work on a compromise appropriations bill between early August and late September.

If developed, the wildfire-resistant plants could be used for greenstripping and to replace burned-over rangeland. Greenstripping is a technique used by forest and rangeland managers to slow the spread of wildfires.

"We already have wildfire-resistant plants we can use in Idaho, but what we really need is forage that is wildfire resistant," said McClure.