Texas faces at least $21M in wild­fire dam­ages

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

Texas ranch­ers AMAR­ILLO — are fac­ing at least $21 mil- lion in agri­cul­tural dam­ages from wild­fires that black- ened more than 750 square miles in the Texas Pan­han­dle last week.

Dam­ages last week in­cluded $6.1 mil­lion in lost pas­ture­land; $6.1 mil­lion in lost or dam­aged fenc­ing; $3.8

mil­lion in lost build­ings; $4 mil­lion in live­stock deaths; and $1 mil­lion for emer­gency hay and feed, econ­o­mist Steve Amos­son told the San An­to­nio Ex­press-News.

“There are a lot of losses, and we just don’t know all of them at this time,” he said. “We’re still deal­ing with chaos. They’re still try­ing to find cat­tle.”

Dry grasses, low hu­mid- ity lev­els and high winds all con­trib­uted to the March 6 wild­fires, said Amaril- lo-based Na­tional Weather Ser­vice fore­caster Ed­ward An­drade.

Amos­son said the longterm im­pact will de­pend on whether the re­main­ing 13,000 to 14,000 cat­tle will be fed with re­duced graz­ing land. Some cat­tle might also suf­fer fire-re­lated health is­sues, such as smoke inha- la­tion.

The Texas An­i­mal Health Com­mis­sion de­ter­mined Wed­nes­day that 2,500 head of cat­tle and 1,900 swine were lost to the Texas fires.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott has de­clared an emer­gency in six coun­ties.

Ab­bott and the gover­nors of New Mex­ico, Oklahoma and Kansas asked U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Mike Young to halt graz­ing re­stric­tions on fed­eral lands to give sur­viv­ing cat­tle more places to feed.

“Emer­gency gr a zing au­tho­riza­tion would pro­vide im­me­di­ate re­lief to live­stock pro­duc­ers,” Ab­bott said.

In a state­ment Thurs­day, Ab­bott’s of­fice an­nounced that the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture has made crit­i­cal re­sources avail­able for

those af­fected. Those ser­vices in­clude the Emer­gency Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram, which pro­vides fund­ing and techni- cal as­sis­tance for farm­ers and ranch­ers to re­ha­bil­i­tate farm­land dam­aged by natu- ral dis­as­ters.

MICHAEL SCHU­MACHER / THE AMAR­ILLO GLOBE NEWS

David Crock­ett rides the scorched prairie of Franklin Ranch search­ing for in­jured cat­tle last week after wild­fires, driven by 50 mph winds, raced across Gray County. Texas ranch­ers are fac­ing at least $21 mil­lion in agri­cul­tural dam­age from the wild­fires, which black­ened more than 750 square miles in the Texas Pan­han­dle. Gov. Greg Ab­bott de­clared a state of emer­gency in six coun­ties.

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