Thursday, March 12, 2009

Time proves ranchers and ecologists can agree on the Vina Plains

The conservancy obtained a conservation easement on the Vina Plains in 1982 and began managing it with the intent to protect it from the ravages of cattle ranching. Soon, visitors arriving to the land about 12 miles north of Chico, mistakenly headed for the private cattle ranch on the preserve's north boundary. From beyond the fence they could see thriving wildflowers. Problem was, they were already standing on the preserve that had been "protected" from grazing. Up until about 10 years ago, Reiner explained, ecologists thought grazed land was damaged land, that wildflowers got trampled and pristine vernal pools got spoiled. In the past decade, that thinking has changed — and with good evidence to back it up. Reiner, who holds a doctorate in range management, said ecologists have found that wildflowers do best when growing in spots with low grasses, those native to the Northern California plains. High grasses brought in by pioneers through planting and animal feed tend to grow too high to allow for wildflowers — among them Goldfields, Shooting Star, Meadow Foam — to get enough sun. Grazing cattle go for the high grasses. "Livestock performs the service of weed control," Reiner said...Chico Enterprise-Record

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