- Over 60 Percent Of Montana Facing Drought Conditions
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office Monday released this year’s state Water and Supply and Drought Outlook report. Over 60 percent of Montana is facing drought conditions.
Montana’s unusually mild fall and winter has led to “abnormally dry” conditions across over 40 percent of the state. Almost 20 percent of Montana faces “severe” to “extreme” drought. It’s most severe in 12 Eastern Montana counties.
“Any of this prairie ground and continuous crop farmland – there’s zero sub-moisture in there, it’s dry for basically four feet,” says Richland County Commissioner Loren Young, who farms west of Fairview. “It would never sustain a crop. If this continues we’re in bad shape here.”
On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being a worst-case scenario, Commissioner Young was asked to rate Eastern Montana’s drought conditions.
“We’re probably about a 9.9,” Young said.
In its request earlier this month to Gov. Greg Gianforte for a Drought Disaster Declaration, the Richland County Commission describes severely-stunted pasture grass. They say local cattle producers may soon have to decide between buying expensive hay from outside the
region or reducing herds at distressed sale prices.
The Governor’s Montana Water and Supply Drought Outlook Report notes that if spring precipitation is below average, Eastern Montana ranchers may face challenges this summer ensuring adequate water supply for their livestock.
The report also says elevated fire risk is possible if current conditions persist.
Gianforte’s office issued a press release Monday saying the governor is tasking state agency directors to look at options to support agricultural producers in extreme drought conditions.
State drought experts say there is time for drought conditions to improve before the onset of summer. The next eight to 10 weeks will be critical. Weather forecasters say Montana has equal chances for above, below or normal precipitation heading into late spring and early summer.
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- Valley farmers preparing for drought conditions to worsen
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Hunter Farms in Atwater is bracing for a second straight year of drought.
Scott Hunter grows almonds and pistachios but won’t plant as many pumpkins this time around.
“You know, I’m probably not going to this year because of the situation with the water,” he said.
Hunter hopes his surface water deliveries will be enough to keep the crops going.
During the last extended drought, he had to pump groundwater as deliveries started to dry up.
Scott is frustrated by the state’s inability to establish a stable water system for farmers and communities.
“When you have groups that want to tear down dams and groups that want to build dams, it’s hard to find middle ground,” he said. “As long as this state can’t solve this problem, we’re going to continue to have this ebb and flow of water and no water years.”
The National Weather Service in Hanford expects our drought conditions to worsen into the summer following one of the driest seasons on record in the sierra.
“We had a very dry winter,” says NWS Meteorologist Kevin Durfee. “On one hand, I can count the number of storms we’ve had since October.”
Durfee says we can expect above-normal temperatures over the next 60-90 days, which will cause heavy snowmelt.
But another worrisome factor is the rapid drying of trees and brush in areas susceptible to wildfire.
“It’s much worse as you go into the higher elevations and that’s where we’re really, primarily, concerned,” he said. “The foothills and higher elevations in the Sierra, we’re looking at fuel moistures which are at June levels.”
Gov. Newsom last week declared drought emergencies in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. More can be added.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 50 of California’s 58 counties as drought disaster areas.
Durfee figures we’d need 10 more storms just to get to a normal year.