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.

Catastrophic Wildfires Across the West Bring Attention to Need for Management

PLC LogoWASHINGTON – As massive wildfires blaze across the West this week, the need to address the increasing wildfire threat is even more apparent. According to the Agriculture and Interior Departments, there are currently 19,000 interagency personnel fighting wildfires across 13 states. The Soda Fire that burned across southern Idaho and eastern Oregon consumed roughly 300,000 acres of rangeland, threatening the homes and lives of residents, livestock and wildlife.

While Washington bureaucrats call for more funds to suppress the growing fires, the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent a letter to the White House today stressing the importance of proper natural resource management in order to help prevent these catastrophic events in our nation’s forests and rangeland which are managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, wildfire suppression now costs the agency more than $1 billion annually and for the first time in its 110-year history, the agency is spending more than half of its budget on wildfire suppression. When the cost of suppression exceeds the budgeted amount, USFS is forced to reallocate funds from other programs to cover the cost of fire suppression, known as fire-borrowing. While PLC and NCBA believe that having fire suppression funds available to cover the cost of fighting fire and prevent fire-borrowing is important, the organizations firmly believe that proper forest and rangeland management is the key to reducing catastrophic wildfires in the first place.

PLC President Brenda Richards said the mismanagement of federally-owned forests and rangelands has created great economic hardship and danger for ranchers that depend upon the land.

“This year’s fire season has proven once again the federal mismanagement of our forests and rangeland,” said Richards, whose ranch has suffered damage in the current Idaho/Oregon fire. “The livestock industry and rural economies will spend decades attempting to recover from the millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure damage and forage loss that have been the result of catastrophic wildfire in recent weeks and years, not to mention the loss of valuable wildlife habitat. Because of frivolous litigation and attempts to keep peace with extremists, our government agencies have hampered the most natural and cost-effective wildfire prevention techniques, and subsequently put the lives of ranching families like mine and others in rural communities at risk.”

As the letter stresses, natural forest fires were nature’s tool to burn the underbrush and smaller trees, creating less competition for resources and resulting in healthier forests. Due to population growth and urban sprawl, people now live in the natural path of fires and as a result humans must take over managing the resources. However, Philip Ellis, NCBA president from Chugwater, Wyo., said with 82 million acres of Forest Service land at an elevated risk of catastrophic wildfires, insect, or disease outbreak, it is clear the federal agencies tasked to manage our forests are failing to exercise their responsibility.

“We have seen more red tape and regulation than ever before, and our natural resources are paying the heavy price,” said Ellis. “This administration continues to push the best caretakers off the land, and now it’s up to Congress to rein the agencies in. As Congress continues discussions to address the lack of stewardship these agencies have shown to the land and natural resources, we encourage them to find a solution that will help prevent these wildfires, rather than simply throwing more money in the attempt to control them after the fact.”

PLC and NCBA strongly supported H.R. 2647 introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) which passed the House on a bipartisan vote, and continues to support S. 1691 introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) which saw a hearing in July. These bills would require the Forest Service to treat a minimum of 2 million acres with mechanical treatment or prescribed burns each year, with reduced NEPA requirements for these projects. Further, this legislation would discourage frivolous litigation by requiring litigants to post a bond equal to the estimated costs of court proceedings and would require an arbitration process to precede the lawsuit. The legislation would also prevent fire borrowing and stop the federal agencies from raiding accounts necessary for proper forest and range management. PLC and NCBA encourage the Senate to take up this legislation and pass it without delay and call for federal land management agencies to streamline regulations that will allow for active management of forests and rangelands and discontinue harmful closed-door settlements with litigious radical groups that seek to see non-management on all lands across the west – the very action which leads to catastrophic wildfire.

–Press Release, Public Lands Council

Montana Rancher Feature: When Wildfire Takes Over

Map via KXLH

Map via KXLH

Montana Stockgrowers Association‘s members are no strangers to Mother Nature and are subject to floods, fires, storms, and much more during the year. In 2012, southeast Montana experienced severe wildfire damage. In this video, Marian Hanson of Ashland explains how the Ash Creek Fire Complex affected her ranch and how they plan to move on. This video is part of the Montana Family Ranching Project.

Even though Marian, along with many other Montana ranchers, experienced devastating losses from the fire, the persevering spirit helped them to overcome the tragedy and start again. Nearly a year and a half has passed and every day, these ranchers are still reminded of what happened…whether it’s having to rebuild fence, seek financial assistance, or simply compare stories from the event with neighbors. Ash Creek Montana Fire Burns Ranches

Marian and her daughter Jackie Musgrove will be featured in the Montana Stockgrowers second volume of the Montana Family Ranching Series coffee table book: Ladies and Livestock. This book will be released in digital format for the iPad. Be checking back for details of its release. Please email Lauren for more information: lauren@mtbeef.org.

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