Ranchers In Need of Quick Claims Compensation Following Fire Damage

English: A prescribed fire in a Pinus nigra st...

A controlled burn that got out of control has made for some not so jolly Ranchers in North and South Dakota. The Pautre Fire, which began last week as a prescribed burn, was carried away by strong winds – burning nearly 16 square miles between Hettinger, N.D., and Lemmon, S.D. With damages expected to exceed $1.5 million, the affected ranchers are now wondering why the Forest Service did not listen to their warnings about dry and windy conditions before starting the fire.

As a result, North Dakota U.S. senators are turning up the heat on the U.S. Forest Service insisting on quick claims compensation for the majority of the landowners who cannot afford to pay now for immediate repairs and wait to be reimbursed once claims are processed.

Claims Journal article excerpt, April 11, 2013 “They (fire agencies) also need to re-evaluate the practice of intentionally burning grasslands, Nobody knows the land better than the people who live and work on it, and in the future, the agency needs to consult with landowners about the best way to manage the grasslands.”- Claims Journal article excerpt, April 11, 2013

Jeff Berino , Pie’s Senior Fire Investigator weighs in:
Ranchers and farmers routinely conduct burns on their land for a variety of reasons. They know what is best for their land through years of trial and error. The introduction of prescribed fire into selected parcels of forest or grassland can be beneficial at the right time and in the right place. However, determining the right time and place can be a delicate and sometimes daunting process. I feel the federal land managers should be working hand in hand with the locals to determine the best practices and procedures.

Adding fuel to the fire is the concern over the actual claims process in which ranchers must agree that the given claim settles their damage. In reality, the extent of the damage is hard to fully realize and can take a considerable amount of time. For example, burned grasslands can contribute to poor feed which will then reduce the pregnancy rates in cows; pregnancy rates in the cows won’t be checked until next Fall.
District ranger Paul Hancock said the Forest Service regrets the fire and is focusing on helping ranchers.

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