Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 10:39 am By Rocky Wilson
Wallowa County Chieftain
Wallowa County Commissioner Paul Castilleja, while addressing the topic of the current 73,300-acre Cache Creek Fire mostly in northeast Wallowa County, says a shorter response time to the emergency could have significantly reduced the size of that fire.
Those most impacted by the blaze in steep, reclusive lands were three ranchers with grazing rights in the area: Mark Ramsden, Scott McClaran, and Dwayne Voss.
Local ranch grazing permittee Rod Childers, who’s a member of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s public lands committee, says a frustration common among his peers concerns the time lapse between such fires’ start and the point when firefighters are organized enough to begin fighting them.
A realist, Childers says the number of other forest fires in the general area should be considered before passing judgment on the response time for the Cache Creek blaze.
Possibly hardest hit among the three grazing permittees is Ramsden, who lives part of the year in Lostine and the rest of the year as a cowboy in a small cabin in Joseph Creek Canyon. He knows his livelihood now hangs in the balance.
“The last thing I want to do is sell these cows. It’s really hard to start up again,” said the independent rancher suddenly faced with the need to either “buy a pile of hay or lease other ground.”
Neither option is desirable because, says Childers, the price of hay, if hay can be found, now stands at about $150 per ton and “not a lot of country in the Northwest is available for lease” when Ramsden would need it for winter grazing, January through April.
Ramsden leases about 13,000 acres of private grazing land from the Magden Ranch for winter grazing, and projects about 5,000 acres of that land has been ravaged by the Cache Creek Fire.
The severity of that impact on his cattle operation is enhanced, says Ramsden, because much of that leased ground that didn’t burn has little water, making it less usable for grazing purposes.