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~

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4 thoughts on “Show Me The Grass

  1. Elaine Stovin says:

    Great blog post Erika! These pictures really hit home the message that change is needed. You guys should print these pics and take them with you to Beef Day.

    (9:11 am…who won the bet today J)

    Take care

    E

    ___________________________________________ Elaine Stovin | BC Cattlemen’s Association | Ph: 250-573-3611

    • 2erikas says:

      You got me!! You win for the ‘greatest fan’ award! Didn’t get this in time to print the pics but told them to look it up on the blog! Just emailing a few MLA’s the link right now 🙂

  2. Ken Chalmers says:

    Hello Erikas,
    As a Registered Professional Forester, Articling Agrologist and Nadina District Range Officer, I am wondering what level of advocacy you are receiving from your local Range Officer with the Ministry of Forests… I am also wondering what more would you like to see happen out there where the hooves hit the grass and where our food is grown.
    Part of my job is to review the ‘development plans’ a.k.a. Forest Stewardship Plans to ensure that some of the intended forest practices are consistent with progressive range management – but that usually only means looking at mitigation and prevention of invasive plants and mitigation of natural range barrier removal. It is obvious to me that de-forested land has many challenges with respect to ‘honouring’ other users of the forest and range resource and I would love to hear more from you about that. I know the forest industry could do more to support the other forest resources but current legislation has minimum requirements and our local decision makers also do not have a good grasp of the value of the other resources – such as forage – so we do have an uphill battle. It’s true that forestry is king – for now, but I am definitely with you all in making the natural resources more appropriately utilized by all.

    • 2erikas says:

      Thanks for reading and for your comments Ken! Every area of BC is unique and different, but in our area (Boundary/Kootenay) we have a few major problems. Clear cuts are no longer logged and managed for grazing animals and wildlife. Logging companies have gotten really good at discouraging animals from entering the clear cuts. Grass seeding is just about non-existant, and when it is done they use errosion-control varieties, which do not provide forage volume. In 2001, we had some cut blocks that were seeded to Orchard grass which was awesome for us. Some practices such as trenching and mounding are really hard on our grass resource. The practice of ‘Zero Net Deforestation’ needs to be rethought, as consideration of natural regrowth in not being taken into account. The standards that force Logging companies to have their trees ‘Free-Growing in _____ amount of Years’ needs a re-vamp, as areas that are hard to get trees established (i.e. dry hillsides and swamps) should be left for grazers.
      We just feel that our range areas are so well managed for tree production, that our grasslands, riparian areas and private land are being over used in BC because of a lack of forage on the Crown’s Land.
      Thank you for listening to our view.

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