Lodgepole Complex

Crews work the July Fire in Phillips County, Montana July 5, 2017.

The federal government has denied Montana’s request for $44 million dollars in disaster funding following the historic 2017 fire season that burned over a million acres across the state.

The largest wildfire in the U.S. this year burned in Montana, decimating 423 miles of fertile rangeland, and with it, the livelihoods of many Garfield and Petroleum County ranchers.

Republican State Representative Bill Harris of Winnet was one of them. Harris documented much of the disaster that destroyed his ranchland on his personal Facebook. He’s pointing the finger at a nearby Wilderness Study Area (WSA) managed by the Bureau of Land Management as contributing to overall fire devastation.

This is the worst fire season Montana has seen in years. The state is spending about $1.5 million dollars a day battling the blazes and meteorologists say they’re being fueled by something called a flash drought. 

As the most severe drought in the nation continues to pummel ranchers and farmers in northeastern Montana, the National Weather Service says it isn’t ending anytime soon. 

The Lodgepole Complex of fires has burned more than a quarter-million acres of rangeland in eastern Montana. Hundreds of firefighters came from 34 states to battle the blaze. While it’s now almost fully contained, ranchers who live here are left with a landscape of scorched grass and scattered cattle.