North Hills Fire Fence Re-construction Project

Story and Photos by Carmela Romerio, Rangeland Management Specialist, Butte Field Office 

Wooden fence with barbed wire in a field
Newly constructed fence, gate
and braces, 2022.

On July 26, 2019, a human-caused fire three miles northwest of Lake Helena burned approximately 5,019 acres, including 4.5 miles of fenceline. 

Because emergency stabilization lacked funding at the time, Brandy Janzen, Butte Assistant Field Manager, executed a cooperative agreement with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) for labor costs to re-construct the priority portion of the burned fence. Work was scheduled for early April-May 2022, and the estimated cost was $11.50/ft.  

Four people in vests and hard hats pose together in a field
Montana Conservation Corps Crew Jake,
Erin, Ethan, and Charlie.

Fire effects to range resources 

The fire burned about 4.5 miles of fence, damaging the wooden components of the fences, wire, corners, braces and cattle guards. Further, 428 Animal Unit Months (AUMs) were rested from livestock grazing for two full growing seasons to allow the rangeland resources to recover. Affected allotments include the Hilger Hills, Sieben and Doghair allotments. 

To maintain the integrity of the grazing systems and to keep the livestock of adjacent private landowners from entering and grazing the burned area during the rest/recovery period, the BLM retained funding to replace priority infrastructure. Ranchers with grazing permits on the allotments provided labor and equipment. 

two track road with a gated fence across it
Additional view of the re-constructed
fence. 

SIDEBARS 

An Animal Unit Month (AUM) is the amount of forage required by one animal unit for one month. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) uses 30 pounds of air-dry forage per day as the standard forage demand for a 1,000- pound cow and her calf (one animal unit). An AUM the use of public lands by one cow and her calf or their equivalent including but not limited to one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month. 

The Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) is a nationally recognized Montana-based nonprofit dedicated to inspiring young people through hands-on conservation service to be leaders, stewards of the land, and engaged citizens who improve their communities.  MCC young adult and youth crews work on public land conservation projects throughout Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and the Dakotas (www.mtcorps.org).