Some ranchers settle in Pautre fire case
Some ranchers whose private land and federally-administered grazing allotments were burned by the U.S. Forest Service agreed to a settlement this week.
Vince Gunn, Shadehill, South Dakota, is one of three entities who agreed to settle with the federal government.
According to the Rapid City Journal, the three settlement agreements that were filed Wednesday came after a multi-day mediation session in Rapid City. The agreements say the government will pay $90,000 to Vincent and Susan Gunn, $81,000 to Duane Meink and $70,000 to the Darci D. Feifer Limited Partnership, of which David and Lori Bossman are general partners.
Of the $90,000 he was awarded, Gunn said nearly half of that will go to cover lawyer fees. “Knock $35,000 or $40,000 off for the attorney fees and court costs and everything,” he said expert witnesses, sales tax and other fees will have to come out of the settlement.
“In the end, we probably got enough to cover the fencing costs,” he said. He will not be compensated for lost forage because of the significant percentage of his settlement that went to pay court costs. Gunn said local fencing crews charge $10,000 to $12,000 per mile to put in new fence, and he lost over 4 miles of fence in the fire.
He had to replace some wood posts already. “I couldn’t get by without having cattle there for six years,” he explained, saying the fire had destroyed the wood posts.
Gunn said there was no talk of compensating the victims for interest over the past 6 years.
The U.S. Forest Service, who oversees the National Grasslands set fire to some of the rangeland it manages in April of 2013, intending to burn 210 acres. Because of the dry conditions and the forecasted wind for the day, local ranchers recommended against the fire, which soon grew out of control, burning over 11,000 acres, about 2/3 of which were private and the other 1/3 being USFS land.
The settlement this week is the first compensation any of the landowners or federal lands grazers have received.
Several fire victims remain in litigation, including the Archibalds, Evridges, Fosses, Harrises, Caspers, Diamond Acres Trust, Hermanns and Sonns.