More Ranchers Sue Feds Over Spread of 2013 Prescribed Burn

December 25, 2015 02:56 PM
More Ranchers Sue Feds Over Spread of 2013 Prescribed Burn

More northwestern South Dakota ranchers are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a 2013 prescribed burn that escaped its boundaries and scorched private land.

A third lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging that the U.S. Forest Service committed numerous errors in its preparation and execution of the fire. Two similar lawsuits were filed last week in federal court, the Rapid City Journal reports.

The third lawsuit names 11 plaintiffs and brings to 25 the number of ranchers seeking unspecified damages for the April 3, 2013 Pautre Fire.

The Forest Service intended to burn about one-third of a square mile of federal land, but the fire got out of hand and spread across 17 square miles, including 11 square miles of privately owned land.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a June letter to U.S. Sen. John Thune, said the Forest Service relied on weather forecasts from the National Weather Service's Rapid City office that proved inaccurate.

Affected landowners previously filed more than $50 million worth of administrative claims that were denied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service.

Some of the ranchers are alleging damages to grassland, hay, crops, soil, fences, trees, wildlife, cattle and the market value and fertility of surviving cattle. Some ranchers also cited other costs related to post-fire cleanup, invasive weed control, rental of alternative pasture land and medical care for injured cattle.

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