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Senators Seek Federal Drought Help

With drought conditions worsening in a number of Oregon counties, Sen. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are seeking federal assistance for Oregon cattle ranchers.

Jose Villagrana prepares to round up cattle for the day's drive (file photo).

Jose Villagrana prepares to round up cattle for the day’s drive (file photo).

Vince Patton/OPB

In a letter sent this week, the Senators asked the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to extend emergency grazing opportunities on federal lands. In the Klamath Basin, the first three months of this year were second driest on record. And already the USDA has designated Klamath, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties as drought disaster counties.

Lois Loop is a farm program specialist with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

She says one thing that could make the lack of forage even worse would be large fires similar to those that burned last summer.

Loop said, “We’re always concerned about wildfire. And this year we’re certainly keeping out antennas up because it doesn’t look real good right at the moment. Things are drying up pretty fast.”

Loop says these types of emergency grazing requests are not unusual. The lands generally aren’t released until after July 16. That marks the end of the primary nesting season for ground birds such as the Sage Grouse.

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