Beyond contributing to early-season fires like the Guernsey State Park fire
earlier this month, abnormally dry conditions have prompted Gov. Matt Mead to seek a federal agricultural disaster declaration.
Drought conditions, according to Mead, have aversely affected every county except for Teton County.
"Wyoming farmers and ranchers are struggling to work through serious impacts caused by drought," Mead wrote to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to request the declaration, which would offer federal emergency assistance to Wyoming producers if granted. "Over the past month, county commissioners throughout Wyoming have requested agricultural disaster designations for the 2012 agricultural production year."
Mead wrote that he consulted with the Wyoming Farm Service Agency before issuing the request, and that all but Teton County "has suffered grazing loss and dry-land hay loss in excess of the disaster threshold." Reuters reported that statewide, ranchers have lost about half of their pasture grass and hay production on non-irrigated lands this year. And the conditions have prompted some ranchers to sell off cattle en masse just to cope.
Teton County has held out due to snow pack and runoff from the Teton Range and others surrounding it. Meanwhile, parts of southwest Wyoming show a drought intensity of "extreme,"
only one notch down from the highest designation. The rest of the state sits mostly at "abnormally dry" or "moderate drought" conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Compared to a year ago, the most severe conditions are less widespread. At this time last year, 5.22 percent of Wyoming was in "exceptional" drought conditions, the highest designation. Nowhere in the state currently attains this designation. However, low-end drought conditions are widespread this year. "Abnormally dry" conditions blanket nearly 74 percent of the state, compared to 21 percent last year at this time. And "severe drought" has infected more than 37 percent of the state, as opposed to 14 percent last year.
The risk of fire remains high, and campers need to be more careful. According to a tweet by the Shoshone National Forest, patrolling Forest Service personnel put out 15 left or unattended campfires over the weekend.
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