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Fire recovery a long road for Nebraska farmers, ranchers

The wildfires that threatened ranches and communities in northwest Nebraska in late July and early August have been extinguished. But the scorched pasture land left behind will feel the fire's effects for years and landowners should adjust accordingly when making management decisions about pastures that were burned, according to University of Nebraska specialists.

University of Nebraska Extension educator Scott Cotton of Dawes County said three fires in Dawes County burned 27,954 acres, including 11,016 acres of privately owned land. Three fires in Sioux County burned 40,211 acres, almost all privately owned. The fires were contained in early August after burning for about a week.

In all, about 75 landowners, including 50 ranchers, were affected by the fires, according to Chadron State College grazing lands specialist Chuck Butterfield.

Nebraska agencies and organizations are working to mobilize resources to help the area recover from the wildfire. Landowners have many resources available to provide assistance with fire recovery, according to Cotton and Butterfield. These include UNL Extension, CSC, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, the Upper Niobrara-White NRD, U.S. Forest Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. There have also been some private funds set aside. The possibility of USDA emergency funds is also being explored.

A "post-wildfire" symposium is tentatively planned for Sept. 9 at Chadron State College, according to Cotton. The initial target audience will be landowners affected by the fire and their neighbors. Contact your local Extension office for more information.

The wildfires that threatened ranches and communities in northwest Nebraska in late July and early August have been extinguished. But the scorched pasture land left behind will feel the fire's effects for years and landowners should adjust accordingly when making management decisions about pastures that were burned, according to University of Nebraska specialists.

The primary recovery goal for ranchers with fire-damages pastures should be the recovery of grasses and restoration of plant cover to pre-fire conditions, according to Pat Reece, Extension Rangeland Ecologist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center.

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