2012-04-19 / Front Page

County makes drought declaration

The county on Tuesday asked California to apply for federal disaster status to relieve local ranchers impacted by drought.

Significant rain fell over the past six months, but most was bunched up at the either end of the season, Mariposa County Agricultural Commissioner Cathi Boze said.

“It wasn’t spread out like it needs to be if you want to grow forage,” she said. “Now grasses and forbs have already begun to go to seed.”

The growing season for forage plants like vetch, clover and filaree ended before this month’s rains. Without natural food, ranchers shell out cash to feed their stock, one ranching local explained.

“The grass matured early, so we don’t have that much natural feed this year,” Jill Mankins of Mt. Bullion said. “Ranchers are having to buy hay—and hay is extremely expensive now.”

According to the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Sierra rainfall stood between 60 and 70 percent of normal this week. For ranchers, the numbers are more discouraging than that, however.

Along with field observations, a survey of county ranchers shows that forage—essentially natural grass and plants—is off 78 percent from a normal year.

Loss of forage on rangeland is estimated to total $4.75 million countywide, according to a letter Boze sent to the California Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday.

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