Iowa Public Television


Lack of Rain Plagues West

posted on August 24, 2001

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

For the seventh time this year, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates. But, the quarter point rollback was greeted with a yawn by financial markets. The investment community was looking for at least a half-point cut to jump-start the economy. Manufacturers are not expanding. Work forces are being laid off. Consumers continue to spend, but not on the large ticket items that fuel expansion, although home sales in July were sharply higher. For the most part, investors have sat on the sidelines watching stock indices wallow in a narrow trading trough. But Friday stock markets were sharply higher, signaling perhaps an economy on the mend.

In farm country, these financial rudiments are in play. Additionally, the Rural American economy is confronting challenges more imminent and daunting than mere finance.


Fueled by record high temperatures and drought, wildfires continue to blacken hundreds of thousands of acres in the west.

While weary firefighters are gaining the upper hand on some of the blazes, more than two dozen major fires continue to burn. Nationally, nearly 3-million acres have gone up in smoke so far this year.

Lower temperatures and rain in the Pacific Northwest helped firefighters gain ground on several blazes in western Washington and Oregon but lightning strikes continue to spark new fires in other western states.

More than 23,000 personnel are at work fighting the fires.

The trees have not been the only casualties of bad weather and lack of water. Crops in the region have been hit hard as well. Case in point is the 220-thousand acres of Oregon's Klamath (rhymes with bath) Valley.

In April, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management closed the gates on Lake Klamath, the source of the valley's water, to protect endangered white suckerfish and salmon. During the past five months, angry farmers have briefly forced the dam gates open in protest.

In early July, a limited amount of water was released but only enough to help withering pasture land. The valley's crops are a total loss.

This week, the allotted water was gone and the gates were closed again. Though protestors had planned to force them open they chose instead to stand and watch.


Tags: agriculture crops drought news water weather