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Stepping up to help neighbors
August 2, 2017
Deena Shotzberger, Libby, and Shawn Watt, Kalispell/Bonners Ferry, are coordinating a relief effort to provide hay and other supplies from Northwest Montana and Northern Idaho to the Lodgepole Fire Area near Jordan, Montana.

On top of the impacts of an extreme drought, this 270,000 acre fire has burned up to 100% of individual cattle producers' grazing land and hay, an undetermined number of cattle, 16 homes, numerous other structures, roughly 1,800 miles of fence and many corrals, calving sheds and water developments.

The good news – there were very few injuries and they are finding more live cattle that they expected.

The initial hay need was estimated at 34,000 tons to get 7,700 head of cattle through to the next projected grazing turnout date of June 1, 2018.

Some of this hay need has been mitigated by donated grazing from other ranchers and opening of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge north of Jordan for emergency grazing relief; but the need for hay is still critical.

The fire started July 19 and emergency hay donations have been coming into the area since July 24. The first rounds came from the drought-stricken neighbors who provided hay despite having none to spare.

Caravans of hay continue to come in from all over Montana and adjacent states; some as far away as New Mexico.

For this effort they need:
  * Certified or essentially weed free hay
  * Truck and trailers to haul hay
  * Semis to haul large squares or rounds
  * Funds to help with fuel costs
  * Fencing supplies
  * Labor to pick up and load hay

If you can help, let Deena or Shawn know what you have! Reach Deena Shotzberger at (406) 293-8188 or by email,, and  Shawn Watt at (208) 610-4205 or
In emails please include “HAY” in the subject line.

Their job is to match up donations of hay and supplies with those who can donate hauling. If you can do both, that’s great! They will coordinate any donated labor with those that expressed a need for hay pick up and loading, and are coordinating with the receiving area.

Most of this caravan will be hauling hay and supplies directly to impacted ranchers.

For fund donation you can contact Shawn or Deena, or you can deposit to the PayPal account ( and use the friends and family option.

Most of the semis already lined up will load at the larger producers, but there may be one semi that could be loaded from a drop area in the Flathead on Friday, August 11. The drop point has not been finalized, but may be in Somers. If they get additional semis, they may line up additional drop points. The plan is to load the semis with large squares or rounds and haul all of the small square bales and excess large rounds or squares with trucks and trailers.

The caravan will meet at 6 a.m. Saturday, August 12, at the Town Pump in Columbia Falls, which is located at the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 40. They will head up Highway 2 through Browning to Great Falls, Lewistown and then to the designated drop off points near Winnette and Sand Springs.

There are no designated overnight accommodations; so participants should bring a tent and plan to camp Saturday night and return on Sunday.

Travel distance is an estimated 460 miles, and an estimated 600 miles from Bonners Ferry, with time to be determined.

This will be a dynamic process and they will do their best to keep everyone updated. Be patient with them, this started small with Shawn and Deena individually wanting to donate some hay to the fire area and has ballooned to a large coordinated effort. Based on the response so far; they expect this will be an amazing show of support from Northern Idaho and Northwest Montana!

The information will be posted on several Facebook sites, and Deena and Shawn will keep a contact list of everyone who wants to participate, so send your phone number and email when you contact them.

Federal assistance and emergency loans will be available to producers in the fire area, and Tester is trying to expedite the process, but the funds may be several months out, and will only cover a portion of the losses and needs.

So North Idaho and Northwest Montana - let’s step up and help our brother and sister Montanans!
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