BC Beef Day

This year was the fifth annual BC Beef Day. Myself, Erika Strande and my co-blogger Erika Fossen were among some of the BC ranchers who went to Victoria (British Columbia’s capital) along with some BCCA (British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association) staff. We arrived in Victoria on Wednesday afternoon and during the evening we were invited by Her Honorable Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon to tour the government house. Judy is a past present of the BC Cattlemen’s Association and also a fellow rancher from the same valley I grew up in. It was really special to see her in her new dignified role and tour her new house.
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The Erika’s with Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon.

Thursday, the actual beef day, was very busy day for us. Our group had a few meetings in the morning and then there was a beef BBQ held on the lawn of the legislature. In conjunction with the BBQ BCCA launched a video messaging project that has been a year in the making. My dad and I were asked to participate in this project, so it was very exciting to see it all come together to show case BC Beef and BC ranchers. The BBQ was a huge success and really highlighted all segments of the beef industry in BC.

For the afternoon portion or our day we were in more meetings. They were very interesting meetings and I feel so fortunate to be able to be apart of them. It really dawned on me during these meeting the importance of the BC Cattlemen’s Association to producers because of all the hard work that they do to really improve the industry and form those important relationships with government, so we can truly work together to get positive things accomplished for the industry.
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Show Me The Grass

Did you know that Grasslands are the most endangered ecosystems in British Columbia?  With the suppression of wildfires, the encroachment of trees on grasslands has increased dramatically.  Another reason for the endangered ecosystem is that most towns and cities are built in grasslands.  Studies and aerial photos show over time grasslands being swallowed up by the ingrowth of trees.figure2The whole ‘Hug a Tree’ fad has done a number on our grasslands and influenced the way a lot of people think.

Last spring the Ministry of Forest and Range started a ‘EcoSystem Restoration’ on our spring range unit, a piece of ground connected to our home ranch.  They started by taking a 50% cut of all the merchantable timber under 30”.  After that, they cut down the small (15’ and shorter) coniferous trees.  figure6 These steps were done last spring.  This spring, just after the snow melted, they performed a controlled burn.  When they informed us of this restoration plan, we were very skeptical of whether we would see the ‘burn’ or not.  But, they pulled it off and it was accomplished!DSCN5632

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We were so thankful and happy to get this ‘Restoration’ done on our range.  As ranchers holding range tenure, we rely on active logging and practices like this restoration on our tenures to maintain grass for our cows.  During this restoration, this pasture has not been stocked with cattle.  Here are some pictures of how it looks now:  IMG_0757

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Unfortunately, over the past 10 years this has NOT been the norm, and we have seen a trend of inactive and poor logging on crown land.   A decade ago small areas were logged and planted to grass.  Each year a little was done and cows would be supplemented with these areas.  Eventually they would grow in with trees but then a new logged area would be available.  Lately this has not been done.  The forest has increasingly become darker and in turn the grass is decreasing.  Now logging companies leave huge amounts of woody debris on the ground to keep cattle and wildlife from harming their trees.  The clear cuts that could be left clear and grassy for a few years are instead left littered with sharp sticks and smashed timber.  This is not the fault of the logger or the logging companies, but has been created buy a few people in the logging industry making decisions to manage for tree growth only.  The government needs to step in and get the logging companies to manage for everyone:  timber, wildlife, cows and recreational users of the land.  Lately when hunters come to our area they spend a few days out on crown land.  Then when they do not see any wildlife they ask if they can hunt our private land because that is where all the wildlife is.  Since the amount of forage is reduced on our ranges the wildlife spends more time nibbling our private grass.

As ranchers we are actively pursuing the betterment of the environment.  We think about others in our practices such as the wildlife and fish/water, etc.  It seems that the practices lately are just thinking about timber only and not about wildlife or cows.  We pay for and lease the grass off the province but with recent logging practices, this grass seems to be depleting!  Yesterday we were on our way home from the BC Cattlemen’s AGM and we saw a prime example of this!  The pictures show how this range was left after logging. IMG_0748

IMG_0750With this type of logging, NO one can use this land.  Cows, wildlife, or people cannot even walk on this land.  I thought our crown land was labeled a shared resource?  The technology is available to leave a clear cut or logging show clear of logging debris but the crown is choosing to leave it unusable for all, in the name of timber growth.

Let me make myself very clear that we are not against logging!  We ABSOLUTELY support the harvesting of timber as a wonderful natural, renewable resource.  With the ‘Fire Suppression’ trend, where forest fires are immediately stopped, harvesting the trees is mandatory.  It just seems like the logging industry is only managing for timber.  We would like them to realize that we rely on them to maintain our grass levels.  Crown land is a multi user resource and needs to be respected by all who use it whether that is a cow, a logger or some one on a camping trip.
~Erika Fossen~

The Love of the Land

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We recently rented a new piece of grazing for our ranch.  When we signed the lease, the family took us for a tour to get the lay of the land.  The family renting us this land has owned it since 1896 and all this time it has been owned by one family and carefully passed on through the generations.  There are six family members who own different lots that make up the 1400 acre property but they lease it all out to one person, who now is us.

We drove around the farm with two of the wonderful 80 year old sisters as they described their property.  They showed us the house they were born in on a cold February day.  They told us about sledding down the hills on an old tin toboggan with their mother watching anxiously, worrying if they would be all right.  We were shown the spot where there grandfather had been killed by a load of logs in a horrible accident.
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As I drove into a pristine grass filled hillside it brought out a strong emotion.  This family was willing to trust me and my family with the management of their land.  They had lived here, had to move to town to get jobs, lost family and yet the one thing that had stayed constant was this piece of land for nearly 125 years.  One of the sisters told me that she did not know what will happen in the future because the next generations are not ranchers.
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The hardest thing any land loving rancher will ever have to do is hand over his or her land.  We are not scared of giving away the control.  We are afraid that someone in the future might abuse the gift that gave us our lives that we are all so proud of.

If you want to break a ranchers heart, subdivide his ranch and cover it in pavement.

God made a perfect creation in land.  It takes a lifetime of ranching to truly appreciate all that we have been gifted with.

Doug Fossen