For the 8 weeks between finishing high school and starting bible school, I tried my hand at tree planting. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done and I was very happy when it came to an end. For many previous summers before that I cooked for the tree planters, which I much preferred!
One of our ranges had become completely grown-in with trees and had become useless for grazing cattle as there was no grass. For the last 3 years we have not stocked this range with cattle and have waited for them to log. Now that the area has been logged, we are hoping to get a few years of grazing out of these log blocks. The forest companies have stopped grass seeding roads and cutblocks, claiming it is too expensive (although it seems just to be a management decision in this area). As the range tenure holder, we decided to try and get some grass established at our own exspense. This meant physically walking the blocks with hand held grass seeders. Being out on these blocks definitely brought me back to those days of planting trees, although this time i was planting grass.
We really feel that much of our forested area is being managed solely for trees. These thick forests and non-seeded cutblocks are leaving our cattle and wildlife with nothing to graze. This area had a large forest fire in the 1930’s as the blocks were sprinkled with 100’s of fire-killed 200+ year old Larch trees. The resulting forest that grew back over the last 90 years, slowly choked out the grass and was impassable.
We know this land will eventually turn back into a forest but we want to be able to use it for grazing in the meantime. Our ultimate would be to have ranges that were more multi-use, which supplied grass for cattle and wildlife, rather than a thick dog-hair of mono-culture timber.
The cutblocks have opened up access to reparian areas like this little meadow, above. Our grass seeding will supply forage in other areas, helping keep the cattle dispersed. If these cutblocks are not seeded, weeds takeover and soil is eroded. On our own land, we would NEVER expose soil without seeding it back to grass. This is a major no-no, and yet the government seems to have taken a lax stand on this issue in our area. The forest companies have done such a good job of personally making us feel guilty for improving our shared resource, we’re even a little nervous to post this blog!
By seeding some of these cutblocks, we can reduce the pressure on our native grasslands which is the most endangered ecosystem in BC.
As ranchers we are in for the long haul and long-term. It seems very short sighted not to grass seed. Trees are not the only thing that matter in an ecosystem.
~Erika & Doug Fossen~