Over $122,000 distributed for wildfire relief

News
Nov 15, 2013
by WLJ
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—Oregon ranchers and researchers focus on rebuilding and prevention

A total of $122,448.95 from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) has been awarded to 14 ranchers in the state, with a portion designated for research. The money will help pay for ranch restoration due to destruction sustained during the 2012 wildfire season that scorched more than one million acres in the state.

“So much was lost in the fires...our ability to continue proper stewardship of our land and livestock was severely compromised,” said Tom Sharp of Burns, who lost numerous acres of pastureland, cattle, fences and other infrastructure from wildfires set by lightning during the summer months of 2012.

“After suffering numerous personal and financial heartaches from the fires, it feels good for a bit of that weight to be lifted by reimbursing some of our unexpected expenses. OCA’s Stewardship Fund assistance helped enable several miles of fencing restoration completed this summer, recovery protection of creek and riparian areas critical to the habitat needs of sagegrouse and other wildlife species, and in time, the natural recovery of native grasses and forage lost within the burn area critical to the resumption of livestock grazing,” he said. “Ranching will always have its up and down times—and I pledge to make contribution back to OCA’s Stewardship Fund to assist others in those times of need.”

Qualifying ranchers were reimbursed for fencing re construction, watering facilities and re-seeding, while researchers from Oregon State University also received supplemental funds for their research on reducing fuel loads on the range.

“In addition to financial assistance, a significant need exists for research regarding long-term restoration of rangelands that supports both wildlife inhabitance and livestock production,” OCA Executive Director Kay Teisl said. “Prevention measures in terms of fuel load management, rural fire district support, and enhanced communications are also crucial to effectively avoiding such devastating events.”

Since the 2012 wildfires, several rural fire districts have been initiated. The OCA is working to inspire more proactive efforts for future fire prevention by delivering veteran land stewards some much needed assistance.

In July of 2012, Harney and Malheur counties were declared disaster areas by the state and federal government. This year declarations for drought were expanded to include many other counties in the state. Last September, the ODA submitted a request to Oregon’s Emergency Board for funds that will aid in the economic recovery of areas affected by the wildfires in southeast Oregon. ODA was granted $50,000 for these efforts and was later matched by Governor John Kitzhaber’s Strategic Reserve Fund on May 8, 2013.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was designated as the lead entity to facilitate the distribution of the totaled $100,000 in wildfire recovery assistance funding, and generated $22,448.95 separately through donations and fundraisers. — WLJ

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