California wildfires continue to be a devastating yearly trend, but livestock grazing can provide an environmentally friendly approach to reducing the risks of fire. The weather patterns of California create ideal conditions for large-scale and costly fires, with alternating periods of drought and significant rainfall. A decrease in timber harvesting and available grazing lands have also contributed to the ferocity of recent wildfires, as more fuel is being left on the ground.
Livestock grazing helps keep rangelands from becoming overgrown and becoming a liability in the event of a fire. Grazing is also a more environmentally friendly approach when compared to chemical or mechanical means of addressing overgrown weeds and grasses. Using livestock to manage rangelands is also more cost-effective than other methods.
Concerns from environmental groups over the years has resulted in a significant amount of federal land being officially considered a wildlife habitat, and therefore off-limits for grazing purposes. However, periodic grazing has a substantially smaller impact on an ecosystem than a wildfire. Grazing can also help to improve the overall health and function of the soil by increasing water infiltration and nutrient cycling.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for above average levels of precipitation for much of California and slightly lower temperatures for the coming fall and winter. If that comes to fruition, that will mean more growth and a higher probability of increased intensity of next summer’s fire season. On a national level, information from the National Fire Information Center shows that nearly 6 million acres have been burned so far this year. As of August 30, there have been 43,255 fires, the largest number of fires since 2012.
The Trump administration will be making moves to help reduce some of the wildfire risks in California. Commercial logging will be allowed for the first time in decades in the Los Padres National Forest. There is also an effort to reopen portions of public lands for livestock grazing, as well as solar and broadband infrastructure development.