The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could have prevented a load of bad press by paying Montana to set prescribed burns before the 2017 fire season.
Democratic Senator Jon Tester says another reason FEMA likely turned down Montana’s request is because the agency doesn't have the money. “I think it puts Montana's budget in even more perilous situation," Tester says. "And you know, the fact is that fire is a natural disaster. And I know that FEMA's been pounded a lot by floods, and hurricanes and all sorts of national disasters, but the truth is that fire also creates havoc.”Read the rest here.
Montana's Democratic governor declared a state of emergency after fires cleared a century of conifer and cheatgrass infestation even as the state's GOP earth haters went off on the environmental community blaming groups for litigation they say blocks logging in parts of the state.
But, 2017's wildland fires on private ranch land in southeastern Montana dwarfed those on public ground in the western part of the state. The 270,000-acre Lodgepole Complex, the Sartin Draw Fire near Broadus and the Battle Complex near Birney burned at least 100,000 and 185,000 acres respectively, decades of invasive grasses and poor stewardship to blame.
County commissions are infamous for rubber-stamping new homebuilding in the wildland-urban interface and like Greg Gianforte's donors they are among the first blaming environmentalists for bringing science-based decision-making to forest policy.
Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency it should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural fire departments. VFDs should be empowered and paid to conduct prescribed fires along rights of way to reduce the likelihood of range fires but most say they don't have the assets or incentive to conduct fuel treatments. If counties and the state just burned off their road and highway rights of way every year that creates substantial fire breaks.
Republicans are guilty of whitewashing the Trump White House responses to the needs in eastern Montana where Trump won overwhelmingly.
Ponderosa pine isn't native to Montana. Clear the second growth Pinus ponderosa and restore aspen habitat, prescribe burns, begin extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, enlist tribes and buy out ranchers or lease private land for wildlife corridors, turn feral horses from Bureau of Land Management pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses and elect Democrats to lead the way.