The 14th Annual Rangeland Summit was recently hosted in Stockton where more than 150 attendees were presented with information on the value of livestock grazing as it relates to wildfires. While livestock alone may not be able to address thick, overgrown brush, implementing a grazing program post-fire can be a good place to start for brush control and wildfire suppression.
“I think livestock grazing is part of the solution and even if it can help a little bit, is important,” said Livestock and Natural Resource Advisor in Modoc County, Laura Snell. “I thought this year’s event was very timely and there was a real good mix of presenters from academia to ranchers to more conservation groups.”
At the rangeland summit, Snell presented some results from a research team she was a part of that was studying fire information over a 15-year period to evaluate the diversity of plant species. The research took into account rangeland that was grazed immediately following a fire and other areas that had a two-year period of rest after a fire. “Species richness was the same 15 years after fire as it was one year after fire. So, whether you grazed or you didn’t graze, species richness really leveled out and so that’s an important takeaway from this research,” said Snell.
Using targeted grazing to help cut down on possible fuels for wildfires is a bit more intricate than simply putting animals in a fenced area and letting them eat. There is a strategy to be considered when considering grazing animals on rangeland. Snell noted that “we are talking about managed grazing. So, this is managed in terms of the type of livestock, the timing that’s out there. We are talking about everything from cattle to sheep, to goats.”
Snell emphasized the fact there are different times for grazing depending on the area. “Timing of grazing is very important because there’s different timing say in the Sierra Nevada’s at higher elevations, comparatively to lower down in the foothills and in the valley because of those annual grasses and perennial grasses.”