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Gianforte Declares Drought Emergency, Scientists Warn Against Using Fireworks

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Deborah Bathke, National Drought Mitigation Center
/
U.S. Drought Monitor
Drought map for June 29, 2021.

Montana’s governor declared Thursday a statewide drought emergency ahead of the Fourth of July and amid extremely dry conditions.

In his emergency declaration, Gianforte says that every region in Montana is experiencing severe drought.

The governor has ordered the state departments of agriculture, livestock and natural resources and conservation to provide maximum assistance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for drought-related mitigation efforts. 

He also called on the USDA to declare Montana a Drought Disaster Area. 

Gianforte’s declaration comes just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend when setting off fireworks will risk sparking wildfires. 

More than 150 scientists, including nearly 40 based in Montana, have signed onto a plea asking people to forgo using fireworks completely this year. 

Phil Higuera, a professor of fire ecology at the University of Montana, says people have ignited almost twice as many wildfires on Independence Day as on any other day of the year.

Higuera says it’s time to end that trend as climate change heightens wildfire risks. 

“Things that made sense in the past, like fighting for fireworks on the Fourth, they’re increasingly not going to make sense in the future,” he says.

Higuera says he hopes state officials also take this stance. 

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Gianforte said the governor encourages Montanans to use caution this weekend and enjoy public fireworks displays put on by local communities. 

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.