June 13, 2018



By Neal A. ShipmanFarmer Editor


After struggling through last year’s dry conditions, the much needed rains that we have seen in the last three weeks have definitely shown what a difference a little rain can make.
Last year, as most people will remember, virtually all of North Dakota was under pretty severe drought conditions. And so was Montana and most of the states to the west of us.
Due to the lack of rains, crops were drying up, grass was tinder dry and the danger of wild fires was extremely high. All it would take was a carelessly thrown cigarette butt from a vehicle, a spark from a piece of farm machinery hitting a rock, a well flare throwing off residue, or a lightning strike to start a prairie fire that would consume hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of countryside.
And each of those instances noted above did result in one or more wildfires last year. The most damaging of course being the Magpie Fire, which was started by lightning and ultimately consumed over 5,400 acres in the Badlands south of Grassy Butte in early July.
As a result of the dry conditions, the McKenzie County Commissioners took the unusual step of imposing a fire ban that prohibited all open fires across the county, as well as prohibited the shooting of fireworks. The commissioners made the hard choice, but the right choice in imposing that ban.
When it came to seeing any improvement in moisture this spring, things didn’t look all that good either. Farmers planted their fields into dry ground while making prayers that timely moisture would come so that there would be a crop to harvest. And ranchers were wondering if there would be enough grass this year to pasture their cattle on.
But then the rain began to fall in late May. And the rain just kept coming. Most of McKenzie County received over four inches of rain in over a three-week period. It was a “hundred million dollar rain” for area farmers and ranchers, who watched their fields and pastures go from an ugly brown to a luscious green.
The McKenzie County countryside hasn’t looked this good in years. And the good news is that with the moisture, the county’s fire danger is extremely low. Which means that open fires are permitted. And probably more important to everyone as the 4th of July approaches, if the moisture keeps coming, there is a good chance that the discharge of fireworks will again be allowed.
And if you haven’t had a chance to take a drive into the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park or into the National Grasslands, you need to do so. The Badlands, as is the rest of the county, are absolutely beautiful.
What a difference a little rain can make!