Jul 13, 2012 12:31 AM by David Jay
ASHLAND, MT - Ranchers and farmers recently affected by fires in the Southeastern Montana Complex met with agency officials Thursday night, to learn their options.
Hundreds showed up to the St. Labre Mission School auditorium, for the meeting organized by Congressman Denny Rehberg.
A lot of the conversations involved ranchers who have lost grazing land in the fire.
Custer National Forest officials say 58 ranchers use forest land in the district, and 37 have been affected by the fires.
Department of Emergency Services and other agency heads told the public some of the options.
Jackie Musgrove...the president of the Ashland/Fort Howe Grazing Association said she did not get enough information during the fires.
Many shared her concerns.
As for grazing, the US Forrest says 151 miles of fence need repairing on forest land, and 256 miles of fence has been damaged on land separating forest from private land.
The 58 ranchers have 17,000 head of cattle, 9,000 in the burned areas...
Fire destroyed enough of the grass, that cattle will not be allowed to graze on forest land this year.
"The livestock that are out there now in the black won't be allowed to go for almost two growing seasons," said Scott Studiner, supervisor/range specialist for the US Forest Service."So a large impact. Many of these ranchers will face a tough challenge whether to least grass somewhere else for their livestock or haul the cattle to the sale ring."
"It's always a trial and error in Montana," said Denny Dunning, a rancher in Otter. "Weather and stuff. But you always bounce back. That's all we know."
The ranchers will be able to get refunds for grazing fees, on US Forest Service land.
Senator Max Baucus and Senator Jon Tester also had representatives at the meeting.