More than $122,000 from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon Cattlemen's Association has been split among 14 ranchers in the state for ranch restoration due to destruction sustained during the 2012 wildfire season that scorched more than a million acres.
"So much was lost in the fires … our ability to continue proper stewardship of our land and livestock was severely compromised," says Tom Sharp, Burns, Ore., who lost pasture, cattle, fences and other structures due to fires set by lightning during the summer 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 sage grouse and other wildlife species, and in time, the natural recovery of native grasses forage lost within the burn area critical to resumption of livestock grazing.
"Ranching will always have its up and down times," adds Sharp, who pledges to make contributions back to OCA's Stewardship Fund to assist others in future needs.
Qualifying ranchers like Sharp were reimbursed for fence work, water facility damage and provided expenses for re-seeding pastures.
Researchers at the Oregon State University shared in the funds to conduct 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," says OCA Executive Director Kay Teisl.
"Prevention measures in terms of fuel load management, rural fire district support, and enhanced communications are also critical to effectively avoiding such devastating events."
ODA submitted a request to Oregon's Emergency Board for funds to aid the economic recovery from wildfires in Harney and Malheur counties, both declared federal disaster areas.
ODA was granted $50,000 for this effort, which was matched by the governor's Strategic Reserve Fund.