US Fish & Wildlife Offers Relief Grazing for Lodgepole Fire Complex Ranchers

Lodgepole Complex Fire from atop his farm equipment.  Photo: Dean Rogge.

While wildfires continue to take their toll across the West, there are some great examples surfacing of public-private cooperative efforts that tell the story of landscape-level recovery efforts. 

The Lodgepole Complex in Montana claimed 270,723 acres this summer along with 16 homes, numerous outbuildings and many miles of fencing. Laura Demmel with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) shares a story of the cooperative recovery efforts from these fires in her recent article.  

The most immediate need of area ranchers was finding alternative ground for grazing. Thanks to the relationship between the Garfield Conservation District and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, grazing was quickly located on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR) for emergency grazing relief. This ensured that local ranchers would not be forced to sell their livestock early at a discounted price. 

It also benefits the landscape by providing relief to the burned area so when the rains come, new vegetation will propagate. 

Dean Rogge, chair of the Garfield County Conservation District added, “One thing that is certain for producers in the Lodgepole Complex is that the support of communities, individuals, agencies, and other groups has been swift and overwhelming. We are thankful for all who contributed during and after the fire.”

Demmel noted that the coordination between agencies continues today with conservation districts playing a leadership role. Together, the partners are assisting producers through the sharing of resources, boosting access to emergency funding, and offering educational workshops. The Montana legislature committed $75,000 to the Garfield County Conservation District in emergency funding to assist in these recovery efforts, which will help fill in the gaps where existing budgets and grants cannot cover the needs.  

Read Laura Demmel’s full article and find helpful resources here.