KDA Wildfire Initiative Introduced

Kansas Wildfire Assistance Applications Due by Oct. 31

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The aftermath of last spring's fires in Kansas and other Plains states is still evident. (DTN photo by Russ Quinn)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Last week, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) announced the state Conservation Commission had approved the creation of the Kansas Wildfire Cost Share Initiative. This program will provide funding in the amount of $200,000 for specific recovery expenses following the recent wildfires in the state.

Several wildfires burned thousands of acres and destroyed everything in its path in March 2017, stretching from Texas to Colorado, thanks to a robust combination of a dry prairie, hot and dry air and gusty winds. Kansas alone saw 400,000 acres affected by fire, making it the worst wildfire in state history.

Visits Prompt Program

David Jones, water quality program manager for the KDA Division of Conservation (DOC) located in Manhattan, Kansas, told DTN the state Conservation Commission visited the regions affected by recent fires and also visited with the local staffs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). After returning from these visits the commission created this program, he said.

"They gathered data and got a good sense of need and this unique program is what came out of these meetings," Jones said.

Since the program was announced on Sept. 28, the feedback Jones has received about the new initiative has been extremely positive, he said. The need in the areas affected by wildfires is great as many producers face high costs for rebuilding their operations.

Eligible areas for the initiative are in the following Kansas counties: Barber, Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Ellsworth, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Lincoln, McPherson, Meade, Ness, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward and Smith. Only producers affected by the wildfires in these counties are eligible for the new program, he said.

In addition, those producers affected by the March 2017 fires as well as the Anderson Creek fire in 2016 are eligible for the cost-sharing program.

Funds from the initiative are to be used for constructing livestock water supplies, cross fencing, grass seeding, windbreaks and obstruction removal. Many livestock producers in the region focused on rebuilding fences around their perimeter first last spring and was going to redo cross fences at a later time.

These specific areas were selected to be part of the cost-sharing initiative by the state Conservation Commission as these areas are included in NRCS specifics, Jones said. Because of this, other rebuilding activities, such as constructing cattle-handling facilities or livestock-specific structures, are not eligible.

Start Local

Jones said those affected by the fires can get application forms for the program from their local county conservation offices. The local county conservation county boards will be the ones to decide specifics, for example how much money will be distributed and what projects will be accepted, he said.

How much an individual producer could receive from the program is difficult to estimate as each county was affected differently by the two wildfires, he said.

The applications are due Oct. 31, 2017. Jones said the state will expedite the application process and get a "short turn around" in getting money out to producers who need it.

Jones said the best advice he can give to producers considering using this program is to contact their local conservation office and work closely with them.

"I would start the process just as soon as possible," he said.

County Conservation District contact information can be found at http://agriculture.ks.gov/…

Questions regarding the Kansas Wildfire Cost Share Initiative may be directed to Jones at David.Jones@ks.gov or by calling (785) 564-6623.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

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Russ Quinn