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Cassia County officials, ranchers concerned over grazing allotments, recreational areas lost during Badger Fire
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Cassia County officials, ranchers concerned over grazing allotments, recreational areas lost during Badger Fire

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OAKLEY — Cassia County officials and ranchers expressed concern over public lands grazing allotment rehabilitation and the loss of recreational areas in the South Hills on Sept. 23 prior to a Badger Fire meeting in Oakley.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little flew to the meeting at the Oakley Municipal Airport in a Black Hawk helicopter and later toured the burn area with the commissioners by air.

Little asked when the fire, which was at 49% contained on Wednesday, would be fully contained.

Great Basin Team 5 Operations Chief Isaac Powning said the estimated date when they will be sure “the fire will not go anywhere” is Oct. 15 – 30.

Gov. Little gets updated on Badger Fire

Gov. Brad Little talks with Bobbi Filbert, public information officer for Great Basin Team 5, about the status of the Badger Fire on Wednesday at the Oakley Municipal Airport in Oakley.

Sam Hicks, Great Basin Team 5 incident commander, said so far lost structures include one four-seat historic outhouse, another outhouse and one historic barn.

Kim Smolt, public information officer with Great Basin Team 5, said the Harrington Fork Bridge also burned and fell into the creek.

Although there has been animal loss, there have been no human lives lost, Hicks said.

Fuels across the west are “critically dry and experiencing historic-level dryness,” he said.

On Wednesday, crews were working on active fire areas and working on opening roads while officials began evaluating what repairs are needed, he said.

The fire was about a mile and a half away from Diamond Field Jack area on Wednesday, Smolt said.

No structures are threatened on the south end of the fire.

Hicks said they are expecting “a big wind event” again on Thursday.

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The dry conditions and winds last Friday caused the fire to make a 13-mile run, burning up 44,000 acres, including threatening homes along Rock Creek, he said.

A number of sheep and cows grazing on public lands have been lost, “but most have gotten out,” Smolt said.

The group was joined by a few Oakley ranchers, including Eugene Matthews, who grazes 950 pair of cattle on public lands in the area.

Matthews found 50 of his cattle that succumbed to the fire. Most were safely moved out of the area.

Fire, he said, is not inherently bad but the tragedy is that sometimes it doesn’t burn what really needs to be burned.

“Either you do it, or Mother Nature will,” he said.

There are 25 grazing permittees on U.S. Forest Service land in the Cassia Division and four on Bureau of Land Management ground, according to public agency officials.

The ranchers are especially concerned about getting the funding to rehab the grazing allotments and repairing structures like fences.

Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Jim DeMaagd said it usually takes two years before burned ground can be used again for grazing, sometimes longer.

Cassia County Commissioner Bob Kunau said finding other places for ranchers to graze their animals will be a major issue for them because other allotments are already in use by other ranchers.

Cassia County Commissioner Kent Searle said another big loss will be the recreational areas throughout the division.

“Once we get through the first several years it will get better,” said Searle. “But those first couple of years will have a big impact on everyone. It’s everyone’s playground.”

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