The provincial government is using livestock to eliminate fuels in order to keep communities safe from wildfires.
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 the province.
“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.”
According to the ministry of forests, livestock grazing reduces the amount of herbaceous fine fuels in an area, and is a low carbon, cost-effective method that supports local food production and provides new opportunities for ranchers.
“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,” Popham added. “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.”
The government says that, 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.
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.
“Cattle grazing reduces the fine fuels available for fires to take hold,” Boon explains. “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.”