Feeling the heat

Feeling the heat

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press Writer

Helena Independent Record (MT)

BILLINGS — Rancher John Small figured the worst was over when the spring rains fell, and the land turned green. It looked like he’d have a nice hay crop for a second straight year. It seemed that, finally, the yearslong drought in southeast Montana had broken.

But then, he said, the rain stopped. The rangeland faded to gold. And Small’s hopes for the season withered.

‘‘I thought it would be a nice year,’’ Small, who lives south of Busby, said. ‘‘But it just went the other way.’’ He now expects he’ll have to buy hay to make sure his cattle have all they need this fall and winter and believes many of his neighbors will have to do the same.

Drought is taking a toll across the Plains: Wildfires in eastern Montana have destroyed hay and crop lands. Poor pasture conditions in Colorado and Wyoming have prompted producers to sell cattle or delay plans to rebuild herds. And long periods of hot, dry weather have hurt spring wheat and other crops in the region.

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