By Michelle Bigelbach
The Courier 

Montana Lawmakers Speak Up in Washington


September 20, 2017

On Sept. 6, U.S. Senator Steve Daines spoke to members of the Senate in Washington D.C. to raise awareness and draw attention to the fires that keep burning in Montana. In these remarks, Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte discussed having invited Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke to Montana to see first-hand the impact wildfires are having. Daines made a plea to the Senate floor stating, “We need to ensure Montana gets the resources it needs to stop the fires. I’m grateful to the men and women who are risking their lives to fight these fires....The firefighters battling on the ground are away from their families and giving their all to protect lives, lands and property.” Daines expressed his willingness to work with anyone, of any party, and at all levels of government to ensure forests are managed in a way that reduces the severity of wildfires.

On Sept. 7, Congressman Greg Gianforte also took to the House floor to bring attention to the wildfires. He discussed meeting with leaders and firefighters over the summer and witnessing the destruction firsthand. “Drought conditions are severe. Over 40 wildfires continue to rage and more than 900,000 acres have burned,” stated Gianforte to the House. “As we speak, ash rains down our homes and schools and poor air quality threatens the health of Montanans, particularly our children and seniors. And our livelihoods are at risk.” In July, Gianforte and Daines secured emergency relief for farmers and ranchers severely impacted by the Lodgepole Complex fires. Secretary Zinke also granted Gianforte and Daine’s request to permit ranchers to move cattle onto retired grazing allotments within the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge.

On Sept. 8, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced that approximately 30 Montana farmers and ranchers will receive $2.5 million to help rebuild after devastating wildfires ravaged eastern Montana. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which can assist with livestock grazing deferment, damaged fence and post removal, livestock fencing, water facility development, critical area plantings and cover crops. Tester will continue to fight for additional resources for EQIP and other programs to assist with drought and fire relief. Tester’s office is encouraging Montana farmers and ranchers, business owners and families who have been impacted by wildfire and drought to contact his office at 406-728-3003. Tester and his staff are happy to quickly guide anyone affected towards any financial assistance or additional resources that they are qualified to receive as a result of their loss. Montana farmers and ranchers interested in future EQIP sign-ups should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Services office for additional information. In Valley County, the NRCS service center field office is located at 54059 US Highway 2 in Glasgow and they can be contacted at 406-228-4321.

Montanans are encouraged to reach out to Daines, Tester and Gianforte’s office for help with federal agencies, particularly with federal disaster relief. Gianforte’s office can be contacted at 202-225-3211, Daines office can be contacted at 406-252-0550 and Tester’s office can be contacted at 202-224-2651.


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