Grazing livestock seen as wildfire fuel managers
As part of ongoing efforts to help keep communities safe from wildfire, the B.C. government is providing $500,000 to the BC Cattlemen’s Association to develop partnerships and investigate an initiative that will use grazing livestock to manage fine fuels in parts of B.C.
“Using cattle and livestock grazing minimizes the growth of annual and perennial grasses, which helps to reduce wildfire risks,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “It’s one example of what we’re doing to reduce the threat of wildfires, while supporting the ranching sector and maintaining wildlife habitat in our province.”
The province will be working with local governments, the ranching sector and Indigenous communities to develop partnerships and provide opportunities for livestock owners, stakeholders and other interested parties, a May 25 Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development media release outlined.
“Reducing the risk of wildfires and adapting to a changing climate requires more action than the status quo of the last 20 years,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “B.C.’s beef producers are well known for raising high-quality grass- and range-fed beef, and we’re working with them to find ways to combine that practice with reducing vegetation that fuels wildfires. It’s an intriguing model that I’m hopeful will become a mainstay in our efforts to protect our communities and resources from fires, as well as supporting B.C. ranchers and B.C. beef.”
While targeted grazing using livestock is not a solution to all fuel management challenges, it is a powerful tool when used in combination with other methods, such as prescribed burning and selective tree harvesting, the ministry stated.
Wildfire prevention programs in southern Europe and parts of the U.S. are successfully using livestock to graze fuel breaks around communities and reduce the risk of wildfires.
“The last two fire seasons have seen unprecedented resources burn in the province,” said Kevin Boon, general manager of the BC Cattlemen’s Association. “These events have shown us the value of agriculture, specifically cattle grazing, in mitigating the start or spread of fires while assisting in firefighting efforts. Cattle grazing reduces the fine fuels available for fires to take hold. This funding will allow us to develop partnerships in interface areas to help protect our lands, forests and communities, while producing some of the best quality food in the world.”
Using livestock grazing to reduce the amount of herbaceous fine fuels in an area is a low carbon, cost-effective method that supports local food production and provides new opportunities for ranchers, the ministry said.
Lead image: Grazing cattle along Gold Creek Road south of Cranbrook. e-KNOW file photo