Fires destroy land and area economy

Fires destroy land and area economy

23 May 2011

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USA — CLOVIS, NM – Long term agricultural impact of brush fires exceeds $40 Million in Roosevelt and Curry Counties.

When the land dries up, so does the money. The numbers are staggering. After fires and drought, ranchers in southeastern New Mexico are selling off their herds cow by cow, and within three years the area stands to lose more than $40 million.

Sand dunes are stacking up in Clovis and Portales as the wind blows around the earth where pastures used to grow. Grazing fields in the region are scorched by recent wildfires. Because there is no rain and very little grass, ranchers are selling their cattle.

“There’s a huge shortage of hay right now, and there’s no feed to feed those cattle,” said Curry County Agriculture Agent Stan Jones. “To keep those cattle, you can’t afford to spend what it’s going to cost.”

According to an economic impact study, the recent grass fires will drain the area of more than $15 million this year alone, and an additional $40 million during the next three years. That accounts for the cost of fixing fences, selling animals and replanting pastures.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a drought in my life time in New Mexico like this,” said Rancher Chad Davis. He is selling off some of his herd. Davis says there is nothing to feed them.

He lost 12,000 acres of pasture in Curry County’s Tire Fire. It blackened 71,000 acres. Davis has already sold more than 300 head of cattle, an estimated $450,000. “The drought is on of the worst on record, if not the worst, and New Mexico has a large agriculture economy, and that drives a lot of the infrastructure in New Mexico. Without rain that’s really, really reduced.”

Officials say things could get much worse depending on further fires, and they emphasize the estimates don’t include projected losses because of the drought. “We are way behind on planting crops as well,” Jones said. “You can’t grow and put 100 percent of the moisture on that field,” he said.

Farmers like Davis said they are just hoping for some rain. “The sooner it will rain the sooner this soil system will get back to growing and covering this ground so it doesn’t blow. If this grass continues to blow and move it around it will damage the turf here and it will take even long for the grass to recover.

Farmers, ranchers and lawmakers are asking the federal government to open some of its conservation reserve grasslands for grazing. They say it will help cut back on their losses and reduce fuel for grass fires. The land is protected to help reduce soil erosion, save water and reduce damage caused by flood and other natural disasters.

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