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Half a Million Acres Burned in Montana, Cattle Losses Limited


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 this link.

Source: Wyatt Bechtel, Drovers Journal

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