Does cattle graving really reduce fire danger ?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1

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    Does cattle graving really reduce fire danger ?

    I spent most of my life growing up on the east side of the San Francisco bay. I was recently reading an article by the East Bay Regional parks that stated they have cattle graving on areas of there lands because it is the only economic way to reduce fire danger in many areas of there land. I had also noticed over the past few years that every water distracts water shed land has cattle grazing on there property.

    It doesn’t make much sense to me that they put 1500 pound animals on steep and fragile slopes and consider it more environmentally beneficial then having a few volunteers go out there on a weekend with weed whackers and accomplish what it would take these bovines 6 months to do. To say that this is environmentally acceptable and that a thin piece of sustainable trail is not really fluster me.

    I was wondering if anyone knows the real story of why they are there? Is the park services statement true or is it just another way to help make a little money?

  2. #2
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    it is hard for a pasture to burn down. : )

    cattle rub against trees harming them in the process by removing bark. cattle like to form paths, which can cause erosion. if the area is dry, cattle drink tons of water. cattle may keep brush levels low.

    I suppose if the cattle population is kept small there may be more benefits than harm.

  3. #3
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    Cattle do not eat brush. They are grazers like sheep. If you want brush to be et, you need goats not cattle.

    Formica

  4. #4
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    We use fire (controlled burns) to reduce fire hazard and control brush.
    Also some spot herbicide application and good grazing practices.(ie. proper stocking rates)]
    Of course this is all on private land and in the middle of nowhere! (N. Oklahoma)
    There is still fire hazard much of the time. (dry and windy)

    "I was wondering if anyone knows the real story of why they are there? Is the park services statement true or is it just another way to help make a little money? "

    I would guess the answer is "yes" to both of these questions.

    Tim

  5. #5
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    Yes, but...

    It's not a real simple issue. Others have commented on the negatives of cattle, so I won't.

    My understanding is that the cattle do eat a rather significant quantity of grass, and although they prefer grass, grazing an area tends to keep it in grassland. Whether they are eating the brush when it is small or trampling it, I couldn't say.

    In addition, there is some interesting research being done on more intensive managment of the cattle, grazing them on smaller plots for shorter periods of time, then moving them. The intent is to mimic wild animals and bring back the more drought resistant, fire resistant native grasses.

    Finally, there is the issue that many thousands of acres of rangeland in the Bay area have become open space through conservation easements. Ranchers gave up development rights in exchange for tax breaks and the right to continue ranching, while we preserve open space and gain access. If you consider that the alternative was for the land to be paved over as ranches were broken up to pay off inheritance tax bills, the grazing and preserved open space looks pretty good.

    The original poster made a great point with his comment that it is hard to justify grazing but ban bike access to well designed single track.
    Last edited by HarryCallahan; 04-29-2007 at 09:05 PM.

  6. #6
    Log off and go ride!
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    Not a new idea. Been around for decades. For a somewhat humorous account of an early experiment in this practice go to:

    http://www.fsx.org/history.html

    and scroll down to the letter starting
    "To: FOREST SUPERVISOR, Angeles, March 25, 1957"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cppcboy
    I spent most of my life growing up on the east side of the San Francisco bay. I was recently reading an article by the East Bay Regional parks that stated they have cattle graving on areas of there lands because it is the only economic way to reduce fire danger in many areas of there land. I had also noticed over the past few years that every water distracts water shed land has cattle grazing on there property.

    It doesn’t make much sense to me that they put 1500 pound animals on steep and fragile slopes and consider it more environmentally beneficial then having a few volunteers go out there on a weekend with weed whackers and accomplish what it would take these bovines 6 months to do. To say that this is environmentally acceptable and that a thin piece of sustainable trail is not really fluster me.

    I was wondering if anyone knows the real story of why they are there? Is the park services statement true or is it just another way to help make a little money?
    The East Bay Cattle Grazing District...yes, I know it well.

    In the East Bay, cattle grazing is not just a fire abatement method and a way for the district to make a few hundred thousand dollars a year. They also claim that since the lands were primarily ranchland before being converted into parks that there is some historical aspect of the cattle being there.

    The Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay has chosen to not pick this battle of whether cattle are environmentally damaging because it is such a sensitive issue around the park district. It galls me that the cattle can tear up trails, fireroad, hillside, small trees, bring in invasive plant species, crap all over the place, trample endangered species habitats, etc. etc. but still have priority over one of the largest user groups - i.e. mountain biking.

    Park District surveys predict that we will be the largest user group in the near future but I predict that there will be little to no chance of decreasing the cattle grazing for a very long time.

    If you want to know more about it, read my Blog: http://forums.mtbr.com/blog.php?do=showentry&e=177
    There are no stupid questions but there are A LOT of inquisitive idiots.


    Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay

  8. #8

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    I have been doing a bunch of research about natural grasses of California and found out that in Anthony Chabot park there is a area that overlooks SanLeandro that is full of natural needle grass which are drought and fire resistant. As a result lowering the need for grazing, but this is one of the areas the EBRPD has chosen for grazing.

  9. #9
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    Good thread!

    Hey cppcboy,

    Thanks for starting this thread and checking back in.

    Dan'ger,
    I checked out your blog. Very interesting, and very damning as to the district's grazing practices.

    What I've heard is that the cattle can be beneficial in reducing fire danger and in helping to encourage the native grasses if you manage them somewhat "intensively", moving them in a way that mimics elk or other wild grazing animals. The overall idea is to have them eat grass, reduce fuel load, and help out the native grasses by cutting down the competition from "exotics" (the non-natives).

    You fence them out of creeks and water holes, and provide them water troughs. You confine them to smaller areas and move them more frequently. You graze of the bulk of the grass, but not eat it down to the roots, and move the cattle. The native grasses will come back, but not the imports. I believe MROSD has had some success with this.

    These grazing practices are not what you do if you are trying to maximize profit in a conventional cattle operation. The extra fencing costs money. The extra moves cost labor and walk off weight. However, this will still be of benefit to some ranchers. If you've priced organic, grass fed beef, it's not cheap, and is supposed to be much healthier for you.
    Last edited by HarryCallahan; 05-03-2007 at 09:19 PM.

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