Rep. Kristi Noem today sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, to request timely assistance for landowners in Perkins County affected by the Pautre Fire.
The text of Noem’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell,
As you are aware, last week the U.S. Forest Service attempted to conduct a 130 acre controlled burn near the Perkins County, South Dakota border with North Dakota. Despite warnings from local landowners who opposed the action because of dry and windy conditions, the burn went ahead and quickly spread out of control. By the time the blaze was contained, more than 10,000 acres had been destroyed.
Many of these destroyed acres included pasture land, hay bales, and alfalfa owned by South Dakota farmers and ranchers. Furthermore, much of the livestock that were located near the fires could face respiratory problems due to the plumes of dust and smoke. Some of the ranchers have indicated that it will take years to regain their grazing land and hay bales that they rely on to feed their cattle. Our producers have already been strained by drought and lower herd numbers and this fire is yet another devastating loss to our ranching community.
I understand that the Forest Service is working to assess the damages and reimburse producers for their losses. As you survey the losses, I strongly urge you to take all necessary steps to expedite the process to compensate these producers. This should also include opening any available grazing opportunities for those producers who have suffered losses so they can minimize the economic impact on their ranching operations.
Lastly, I also ask that you immediately halt any controlled burns in the area until weather conditions improve.
Thank you for your timely consideration of these important requests.
Member of Congress