U.S. Forest Service starts assessing fencing damage on southern half of Black Fire burn scar

By: - June 19, 2023 4:30 am
Cows sit on freshly growing green grass in the Gila, surrounded by trees.

Ranchers' cows have been wandering around the Gila National Forest since burnt fences aren't keeping them in. Pictured in July 2022. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Wandering livestock in the Gila National Forest could be contained again later this year as the U.S. Forest Service works on repairing and replacing fences that the 2022 Black Fire and following flooding wiped out.

Federal officials are paying for it, too.

It’s something ranchers living in the Gila need assistance to cover. They’ve seen their cows graze beyond pastures, unable to keep them in one place after losing their fencing to disasters.

One mile of fencing could cost over $10,000 to set up depending on the material, according to Iowa State University.

So the U.S. Forest Service is stepping in to cover fencing costs. Maribeth Pecotte, spokesperson with the Forest Service, said the National Forest Foundation and the local Black Range District are putting together an agreement to build new fences.

Once that’s settled, work could get started in late August to actually place the fencing.

Pecotte said local officials have assessed fencing damage on the northern half of the burn scar already and need to reconstruct 65 miles of fencing. On Monday, she said they’ll start looking at how badly fencing was charred or flooded out on the southern end of the burn scar.

The rangers and Forest Service workers plan to fly in about 30 miles of fence via helicopter once their agreement is finalized, she said.

So far, Pecotte said the agencies have bought and received 60 miles of fence material, though they’re still waiting on other parts.

Between fresh green grass and a dirt trail, burnt fencing materials lie at the edge of a slanted gate along with burned-up logs.
Burned up fencing materials are pushed to the side near charred logs and a slanted gate. Pictured in the Gila in July 2022. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.