Montana joined California and other Western states in declaring a drought emergency on Thursday as more than 90% of the state faces abnormally dry conditions.
Gov. Greg Gianforte issued the executive order just before noon – an action that puts in place certain resources.
“Every region of the state faces severe to extreme drought conditions, and the situation is getting worse,” Gianforte said. “These alarming drought conditions are devastating our ag producers, challenging our tourism industry, and could bring a severe wildfire season.”
According to data in the latest Montana Drought Forecast Report, released on Wednesday, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates approximately 91% of Montana faces abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions as of June 22.
Drought conditions currently are “substantially worse” than at the same time last year when approximately 52% of the state confronted similar conditions, according to the governor’s office.
The July forecast projects below-normal precipitation throughout the state and a 40% to 50% chance of above-normal temperatures across much of Montana.
“This emergency order makes available all necessary state government resources to mitigate the impacts of this drought and protect Montanans,” Gianforte said.
Wednesday’s statement by the governor made no mention of climate change or efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases.
But the order does direct the Departments of Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources and Conservation, to provide maximum assistance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on drought-related activities.
Doing so would secure timely economic assistance from the federal government if necessary. The order also suspends regulations for motor carriers and those operating commercial vehicles while they provide direct drought-related support.
“As Montana battles extreme drought conditions, we need all resources available to help Montana farmers and ranchers survive these harsh conditions,” Sen. Steve Daines said in a statement. “I fully support Governor Gianforte requesting a drought disaster declaration, and I urge Secretary Vilsack to approve it immediately.”
The latest map from the drought monitor shows that 90% of the West, including California, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, are in drought. Conditions are “severe” or “exceptional” in about half of the region.
This week, much of the Pacific Northwest has roasted with abnormally high and record setting temperatures in the 100s and 110 degrees. Missoula has recorded two consecutive days above 100 degrees and four days at 99 degrees.
“The West has never seen a drought like this, especially so early in the dry season,” tweeted meteorologist and author Eric Holthaus, sharing a post from climate journalist Brian Kahn. “We are in a climate emergency.”