Governor Gianforte Calls on Feds to Declare Drought Disaster Area
in 11 Counties
Submitted By Kaitlin Price
Governor Greg Gianforte today called on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to identify 11 counties, including several in northwest Montana, as primary natural disaster areas. The governor’s statewide drought disaster declaration remains in effect.
“With unusually low snowpack and hot, dry conditions in northwest Montana, it is imperative that the U.S. Department of Agriculture aid Montana communities in accessing critical resources, such as the Livestock Forage Program, Emergency Conservation Program, and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program, to respond to continue severe drought conditions on the ground,” the governor wrote in a letter to Secretary Vilsack.
The governor requested drought declarations for Montana counties facing moderate to severe drought as of July 20, including Flathead, Lincoln, Glacier, Toole, Sanders, Lake, Pondera, Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, and Sheridan counties.
Currently, the USDA has not identified any Montana counties as drought disaster areas.
The governor continued, “The Flathead River in northwest Montana is currently flowing at approximately one-third of its July average. Additionally, Flathead Lake sits more than two feet below its full pool level. As a result of sustained dry, hot weather forecasted through the fall, officials project an above-normal fire season for northwest Montana.”
Stressing the devastating impact of drought conditions on Montana agricultural producers, the governor urged, “Relief is needed as swiftly as possible, particularly for our agricultural producers, who are seeing impacts to forage and stock water availability due to drought conditions and low water levels.”
Lincoln County Democrat’s Meet
Submitted by Donna Martin
The Lincoln County Democrat’s Meet and Greet Gathering was a Huge Success with almost 40 individuals from all corners of our county getting together at Roosevelt Park in Troy mid-day on Wednesday July 26, 2023.
The weather was perfect with the warmth of the late morning sun, and then in the shade of the Pavilion with a refreshing breeze on the banks of the Kootenai River. Old friends got re-acquainted and new friends were made over cheese pizza, watermelon, and cake.
Word of the event was spread via email, word of mouth, texting, and social media. With details provided on the Lincoln County Dem web page (www.lincolncountydemocratsmt.org). The Pavilion was decorated with colorful signs and multiple donkeys. Folks stopped in and shared ideas while expressing appreciation for the opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals.
Four Lincoln County delegates had just returned from the Dem State Convention in Butte. At the State Convention, just like at the Troy gathering, the momentum and energy is awesome. The new State Democratic Board is a blend of seasoned members and brand new faces of all ages from Sidney to Kalispell and many places in between.
With redistricting, the new District 1 will include Eureka and the Tobacco Valley areas as well as the Yaak, Troy and Bull Lake areas. District 2 will now include Libby, Happy’s Inn and the Chain of Lakes areas as well as extending into Flathead County in the Marion and Little Bitterroot Lake areas. In the 2024 election candidates will be running for Montana House Districts (HD) 1 and 2, as well as the County Commissioner District 3 seat and other County offices. County Commissioner candidates are voted on by all voters in the County, but must live in the Commissioner District they represent. The 3 Commissioner Districts have different boundaries that don’t necessarily correspond to Precincts or Montana House Districts.
The LC Democrats look forward to hosting state-wide candidates as the election season progresses. So far, Monica Tranel is the only Democrat who has filed to run for the US House of Representatives seat currently held by Ryan Zinke. Jon Tester is running to retain his seat in the US Senate. At this point, there is only speculation about who might run for other State-wide offices, such as Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc.
Lincoln County Democrats have openings for Precinct Representatives, and will continue to have events throughout the county. We’d love to connect with like-minded individuals and hope you will contact us via our web page at: lincolncountydemocratsmt.org
Thomas J. Vilsack Response Letter
Dear Governor Gianforte:
In accordance with 7 CFR 759.5(a), I am designating two Montana counties as primary natural disaster areas due to a recent drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (see http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/), these counties suffered from a drought intensity value during the growing season of 1) D2 Drought-Severe for 8 or more consecutive weeks or 2) D3 Drought-Extreme or D4 Drought-Exceptional. In accordance with section 321(a) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, additional areas of your state and an adjacent state are named as contiguous disaster counties.
Enclosed you will find documentation that provides a detailed list of all primary and contiguous counties impacted by this disaster. Other counties in Montana may have already been designated as natural disaster counties if they had previously met the requirements found under 7 CFR 759.5(a) for the current crop year.
A Secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in primary counties and those counties contiguous to such primary counties eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans assistance, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have 8 months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans. FSA considers each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses on the farm and the security and repayment ability of the operator. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers with further information.
Sincerely, THOMAS J. VILSACK
Brown Trout Numbers Show Decline in Clark Fork
Submitted By Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fish surveys show a steady trend of declining brown trout numbers in the Clark Fork River upstream of Deer Lodge, and a variety of agencies are working together to improve the fishery.
Brown trout are the predominant trout species in this stretch of river and are surveyed annually. Recent surveys show a declining trend, particularly near the Warm Springs area.
FWP, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) are working together to understand more about the cause of decline and what can be done to reverse the trend.
The Upper Clark Fork has a long history of impacts that have affected the fishery. Current remediation (mining metals cleanup) efforts are addressing some of the water quality problems related to heavy metals. However, there are many other variables impacting fish such as structural habitat, river flows, and water temperature. These variables can be important not only in the main stem of the Clark Fork River but also in its tributaries.
The Upper Clark Fork is a complex system with a long history of degradation and, more recently, recovery. This adds to the challenge of sorting out the causes of the fish decline. The partner agencies recently met in Missoula to identify how best to continue meeting this challenge. The overall goal is effective remediation and restoration of the area.
Partners are currently revisiting existing data to better understand decreased juvenile fish recruitment into the population, which seems to be the biggest driver for the decline. They are also prioritizing what other questions need to be addressed with additional research.
“To find what factors are limiting recruitment and overall trout numbers, we all need to share our resources and knowledge,” said Nathan Cook from NRDP. “Addressing issues currently impacting the trout population is part of Montana’s overall restoration goals for the Upper Clark Fork.”
In recent years, partners have worked on habitat projects that provide some short-term streambank improvements while waiting on longer-term natural recovery mechanisms that will help the fishery into the future. Additionally, NRDP continues to allocate restoration funds to projects in priority Upper Clark Fork tributaries, aimed at increasing juvenile fish recruitment contributing to the mainstem population.
“Rather than a single or simple cause, stressors may vary between seasons, location and fish life stage,” said Pat Saffel, FWP regional fisheries manager. “We’re all coming together to learn as much as we can, so that we can continue making informed management adjustments to help the fishery.”
Saffel says that FWP and partners will provide updates as research and work in the Upper Clark Fork continues.