Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Managed grazing helps forests, experts say

With California wildfires becoming more frequent and intense, ranchers and other natural resources experts say public policy on livestock grazing as a potential tool to manage fuel and vegetation needs to be reevaluated to allow more flexibility. Despite mounting research that shows well-managed grazing could help reduce wildfire risk and severity, livestock stocking rates on public lands have dropped substantially through the years—and continue their downward trend today. Prior to the 1980s, production of food, fiber, fuel and water was the primary focus on public lands, Tate said, and that affected streams, wetlands and other riparian areas. But by the 1990s, with concerns about riparian habitat and endangered species, grazing policies began to change and conservation became more of a focus, in order to allow public lands to be used for a variety of purposes. These changes resulted in significant reductions of livestock on public lands. Since 1980, the number of animal unit months—which refers to the amount of forage a thousand-pound cow and her calf will eat in one month—on U.S. Forest Service lands dropped by 50 percent, UC researchers found. From 2000 to 2013, total AUMs declined 27 percent on national forestlands and 23 percent on U.S Bureau of Land Management lands in California. Of the more than 700 grazing allotments on Forest Service land in the state, only about 500 are actively grazed, Tate pointed out. At the same time, the number of grazing herds of deer, antelope and other wild animals also has diminished in forestlands, allowing overgrowth of vegetation and increasing fire risk, Snell said...more

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