Farmers and ranchers in Montana are facing wildfires that are threatening their way of life. Micheal Clements has more.
Clements: Wildfires and drought in Montana continue to threaten the state’s agriculture industry. The latest Drought Monitor shows 26 percent of the state in the most severe drought category with all of the state in some form of classified drought. Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson says all of Montana agriculture is feeling the repercussions.
McPherson: If you’re in a part of the state where you have irrigation and you’re growing crops, nothing is really growing because you’re under a thick cloud cover of smoke and the sun won’t come through. Of course, that smoke, the animals are breathing it, people are seeing their cattle not eat, they’re seeing them not gain weight, they’re seeing their grass and ranges burned up and no place to put their cattle.
Clements: He says the Farm Bureau community is stepping up big to help Montana farmers and ranchers.
McPherson: We’ve had people reach out to us from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, from Nevada Farm Bureau, from all over the country in the Farm Bureau family and want to know if they can send hay, or money, or whatever, and there’s places in the state that are doing that.
Clements: However, he says, one of the biggest ways to provide relief, would be changes to Forest Service firefighting policies.
McPherson: We’ve been locked out of the forest to where we can’t graze and log and harvest, causes fuel to build up, and then when a fire gets going there’s a lot of it to go. And then, the Forest Service needs to attack these fires when they first start, not try to watch them and study them and learn from them. They just need to put them out.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.