Beefing up wildfire security – How the Province is looking to use cattle to help alleviate wildfire risks in B.C.

Franz Feldmann has been a rancher in the Columbia Valley for more than 55 years. With a herd 700-head strong, he keeps busy with life on the ranch off of Westside Road.

Mr. Feldmann and his wife bought the ranch in 1963. The third generation of Feldmanns are now farming the land, with Mr. Feldmann’s son and granddaughter in the business full-time, and other family members coming to help throughout the year.

Ranchers, including Mr. Feldmann, typically have their own land where the cattle will graze during the early spring and late fall. In between those seasons, cattle will graze on neighbouring crown land, provided to the ranch through crown grazing leases. Ranchers have touted the benefits of cattle grazing for years. For example, Mr. Feldmann cites one study where one plot of land was grazed, another left wild. Time after time, wild game came to the grazed land instead of the untouched land. It’s called “conditioning”, he explained, allowing new grass to grow that is desired by wild game.

But now, the B.C. government and the BC Cattlemen’s Association are recognizing another benefit to cattle grazing: wildfire risk reduction.

The government put $500,000 into the Cattlemen’s coffers this last May, for partnerships and investigations into initiatives that will use grazing livestock to manage fine fuels.

“Using cattle and livestock grazing minimizes the growth of annual and perennial grasses, which helps to reduce wildfire risks,” Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said in a press release. “It’s one example of what we’re doing to reduce the threat of wildfires, while supporting the ranching sector and maintaining wildlife habitat in our province.”


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IMAGE: Feldmann cattle grazing in the crown grazing land. CVP Submitted photo.