BISMARCK, N.D. — Drought has eased over the past week in North Dakota but still blankets the western part of the state.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 63 percent of the state in some form of drought, down from 82 percent last week.

Areas of extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories, have declined from 44 percent to 22 percent. The only part of North Dakota in exceptional drought is now a small area in the northwestern corner.

The Drought Monitor says precipitation was above normal for much of the Dakotas over the week, but significant long-term dryness still exists. Some ranchers in North Dakota are being forced to drill new water wells, with their existing wells drying up.

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