- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

COTTONWOOD, S.D. (AP) - More than 41,000 acres of rangeland scorched in a massive South Dakota prairie wildfire last October may still need another year to recover.

Green grass is beginning to replace the blackened area across most of the 65 square miles consumed in the Cottonwood Fire that exploded along Interstate 90, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/2qXIeCd ) reported.

But ranchers say the area is far from ready for grazing.

“The pasture is not coming back real quick,” rancher Grady Crew said. “It needs a year or two.”

The fire burned both private and public lands within Buffalo Gap National Grasslands before finally being subdued two days later by more than 300 firefighters. The exact cause is unknown.

Ranchers say they lost a combined more than 280 cattle, outbuildings, fences and acres of pasture.

“It’ll sure show you how dangerous wildfires are,” rancher Clifford Poss said.

Poss said lack of soil moisture is limiting the return of Western wheatgrass, alfalfa and smooth brome. He said any snowfall the burn area received over the winter either blew away because of no plant life to hold it in place, or evaporated quickly on the blackened ground.

Philip Charities organized the Cottonwood Fire Fund in late October, which raised thousands of dollars in aid, along with donations of hay and fencing materials.

“We’re used to troubles, just not that big of troubles,” Crew said. “You’ve got to accept some of it and just keep plugging away. Don’t give up.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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