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‘Controlled burn’ uncontrolled

Published: Thu, April 18, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Capital Journal, Pierre, S.D.: South Dakota Sen. John Thune is right: The U.S. Forest Service should take steps now to reimburse landowners for damage to private property caused when the agency attempted a “controlled burn” of 135 acres near the North Dakota/South Dakota border. Instead the fire burned out of control, consuming perhaps as much as 14,000 acres in North Dakota and nearby Perkins County, S.D., damaging privately owned hay land, pasture land, harvested hay, fences, at least one building and personal vehicles.

The fire began April 3 and was contained by April 7.

This past week’s wet, heavy snowfall has provided some much-needed moisture in areas. But the fact that people in South Dakota are so relieved to get the moisture calls in question the Forest Service’s management decision to attempt a controlled burn earlier this month.

While North Dakota hasn’t been as hard-hit as South Dakota in this drought, the area closest to the South Dakota state line is in severe drought (and just south of it is a vast area of South Dakota where drought conditions are classified as extreme and exceptional, the two worst categories for classifying drought).

Indeed, Sen. Thune’s letter to the U.S. Forest Service indicates that the agency ignored warnings from ranchers that it was a bad time to attempt a controlled burn.

Sounds to us as though reimbursing landowners for losses is only job one in this situation.

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