30 Eastern Montana farmers and ranchers to get $2.5 million to offset damage from wildfire

from the Helena Independent Record:

About 30 Montana farmers and ranchers whose property was destroyed by wildfires will get $2.5 million in federal assistance to help rebuild.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sent a press release Friday announcing the money, which is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

“After our relentless persistence, Montana farmers will begin to see some relief from what has been a historically difficult summer,” Tester said in the release. “This is the first wave of meaningful resources that will help producers rebuild after horrific devastation. I will keep rattling cages in Washington to ensure every farmer gets what they need to rebuild.”

Montana’s congressional delegation, which also includes Republicans U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, all called for federal assitance to help offset the impact of the more than 1 million acres that have burned statewide this year. Two fires, the Lodgepole Complex that burned about 50 miles northwest of Jordan, and the Lolo Peak fire, still burning about 10 miles outside Lolo, have been approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants that can match state spending up to 75 percent for approved firefighting costs.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, also announced Thursday he was seeking to fast-track additional money from FEMA.

The money Tester announced Friday can be used to assist with livestock grazing deferment, damaged fence and post removal, livestock fencing, water facility development, critical area plantings, and cover crops.

In July, Tester penned a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking the USDA to tap into disaster assistance initiatives. He also invited Republican President Donald Trump to tour Montana fires.

Half a Million Acres Burned in Montana, Cattle Losses Limited

From Drovers:

In Montana almost a half million acres have burned this summer, with more than half of the acreage coming from one wildfire. Fortunately, cattle losses have been limited according to officials with the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports that 29 wildfires are currently active in Montana with the bulk of them occurring in the western region of the state, which is predominately forested public land and has fewer cattle. In all there have been 494,526 acres burned by wildfires in the Big Sky State.

The largest fire is the Lodgepole Complex fire in the eastern portion of the state. It is currently at 93% containment and has burned 270,723 acres. Most of the fire in the Lodgepole Complex are just a few hotspots and it should be put out soon, says Jay Bodner, director of natural resources for the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

“Most of the people in the Lodgepole area are starting to get a better handle on things. We did luckily see pretty minimal cow losses from the fire,” Bonder says.

There have been no major reports of cattle deaths from the fires. Some cattle were killed after being electrocuted by a power line that fell in a pasture when electric poles had burnt down. Bonder doesn’t think the death toll would be as widespread as the fires that ravaged the Southern Plains this March.

Montana still has a month or more of wildfire conditions to endure as drought stays in the state. The latest Drought Monitor released on Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows 11.87% of the state in the most severe rating of exceptional drought. Only 2.77% of the state is identified as not needing moisture.

Fences must be repaired in wildfire areas and hay is needed in the state as drought conditions continue. As with the wildfires in the Southern Plains there has been an outpouring of support.

Most donation efforts have been directed at the Lodgepole Complex fire victims because there were more grazing acres and cattle impacted by that fire. Garfield County Fire Foundation has received more than $600,000 in fire relief donations thus far.

“We’ve seen significant contributions come in to help livestock producers from not only Montana, but all over the United States,” Bonder says. “It is very much appreciated by everyone in the ranching community.”

The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation has been sending donations on locally to organizations like the Garfield County Fire Foundation. If fires and drought continue to impact producers in other parts of the state the Montana Stockgrowers plans to direct donations to those locations.

Donations can be made directly to Garfield County Fire Foundation by sending a check to:

  • Garfield County Bank
  • PO Box 6
  • Jordan, MT  59337 (
  • Call (406) 557-2201 for details

or send to

  • Redwater Valley Bank
  • PO Box 60, Circle, MT 59215
  • Call (406) 485-4782 for details

To make a general donation to the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation go to the following link.

Montana Fire Relief: Updated Ways to Help

The Lodgepole Complex Fire is now at 93% containment.

Firefighters will continue fire repairs and mop-up. Command of the fire has been turned over to a local Type 3 organization.

Sixteen homes have been destroyed as well as an unspecified but significant amount of fencing and haystacks. Numerous secondary structures have also been destroyed. McCone Electric has lost over 120 power poles. An additional 16 structures not included above were identified via satellite imagery as destroyed but type of use has not yet been determined.

There are currently 26 active fires in the state of Montana. The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation is raising money to aid fire relief efforts, if you are interested in donating please mail your donation to 420 N California St Helena, MT 59601. Listed below are alternative ways to help those affected by the Lodgepole Complex Fire.

If you have any questions, please contact the MSGA Office at 406-442-3420.

 

Thank you to Northern Ag Network for continuing to update their list of ways to help. You can find a comprehensive list on their website.

conservation applications

NRCS Offers Wildfire Recovery Assistance to Ag Producers in Montana

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering technical and financial assistance to agricultural landowners impacted by 2017 wildfires across Montana.

NRCS is accepting applications for its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to assist with livestock grazing deferment, damaged fence and post removal, livestock fencing, water facility development, critical area plantings, and cover crops. NRCS accepts conservation program applications year-round; however, applications for 2017 wildfire recovery funding must be submitted by Aug. 15, 2017.

“NRCS in Montana is prepared to assist landowners in dealing with the effects of wildfires and dry weather conditions,” said Lisa Coverdale, NRCS state conservationist for Montana. “We want to work with landowners to help them address fire related resource concerns on their farm or ranch operations.”

High winds, low humidity, and prolonged dry conditions led to the summer wildfires in several Montana counties, and many landowners are faced with making plans for recovery after the wildfires.

Landowners impacted by recent wildfires are encouraged to contact their local NRCS office to seek assistance. NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to install measures that address resource concerns caused by the wildfires. “We want to provide assistance that will help landowners and livestock producers accelerate the recovery of affected agricultural land and rebuild their infrastructure,” Coverdale said.

Landowners should visit their local NRCS office to apply for EQIP. Applications will be ranked, and those approved for funding will be offered a contract. Additional fire-related information can be found on the Montana NRCS website at www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov.