Hoeven: Forest Service to Expedite Landowners' Claims for Damages Incurred in the Pautre Fire

Calls for a Reevaluation of Controlled Burns

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said Charlie Richmond, U.S. Department of Agriculture director of the Forest Service, has agreed to expedite the claims process for landowners who incurred losses in the Pautre Fire in North Dakota and South Dakota. Hoeven’s office contacted Richmond yesterday to ensure that landowners are compensated for damages caused by the controlled burn.

Richmond also said the Forest Service, with the Grand River Grazing Association, is visiting individual landowners to identify needs and assess damages. Forest Service staff is working to replace fencing and has identified additional spring pasture to accommodate ranchers who lost grazing land in the fire. They are also looking into Conservation Reserve Program land if needed for additional pasture.

“The Forest Service’s announcement that it will streamline the claims process for impacted landowners is welcome, but they also need to reevaluate the practice of intentionally burning grasslands,” Hoeven said. “Nobody knows the land better than the people who live and work on it, and in the future, the agency needs to consult with landowners about the best way to manage the grasslands.”

The property damage resulted from a 130-acre planned burn that Forest Service staff lost control of in the Grand River District of the Dakota National Grassland in Hettinger County. The fire eventually burned 16 square miles of grasslands as far south as Lemmon, South Dakota and damaged at least one building, fences, trees and hay bales.