Wildfire Prevention & Recovery
Poor Management Causes Wildfires, Harming the Land and Livelihoods of Public Land Ranchers
Recent drought and miles of unmanaged forest on federal lands have led to damaging wildfires, destroying natural resources upon which ranchers, rural communities, wildlife and the general public rely.
Overregulation and environmental litigation has resulted in greatly reduced livestock grazing and timber harvesting on those lands, which leads to a buildup of fuel, feeding intense fires that kill every living thing in their path, including micro-organisms in the soil that are necessary for recovery. According to the Evergreen Foundation, forest density has increased 40% in the U.S. over the last 50 years.
The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) states, “Wildfires burned over 9 million acres in 2012 with a suppression price tag of almost $2 billion dollars.”
How Do Wildfires Affect Ranching Families?
Fires ravaged California in 2018. The Camp fire destroyed 35,000 acres of cattle-grazing land and hundreds of miles of fencing and infrastructure. Ventura county’s Thomas fire burned an estimated 60,000 acres of ranchland.
Southeastern Oregon’s 2012 “Long Draw” fire spanned over a half-million acres and officially claimed 200 livestock; 400 more cattle were reported missing. At least half a dozen ranching families were left wondering if they will be able to stay in business. Additionally, some 30% of priority Greater Sage-Grouse habitat was destroyed by the fire.
The 2012 Barry Point fire in south central Oregon and northern California burned 93,000 acres. According to AFRC, “In addition to the huge losses of timber, watershed, wildlife, and other values on national forest lands, there were at least six grazing permittees and 38 landowners in Oregon that were directly affected, with property in or adjacent to the fire perimeter. At least 24 had losses or damage in the fire or due to suppression activities. Private economic losses included livestock (injury, death of animals, and loss of animal body weight), forage, fences and corrals, and timber.”
Montana’s Ash Creek Fire in 2012 claimed roughly 400 cows and calves belonging to one ranching family. That family was later forced to shoot, in mercy, additional cattle due to severe burns. Less than half the family’s herd remains. Two hundred cattle were killed in Wyoming and about 225 in Oregon. In remote southeastern Oregon, one family lost a third of their 300-head cow-calf operation.