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22 RANGE priorities nfrom page 21


it impacts them,” says Gardner. Collaboration is a key to meeting the interests of multiple values and there are currently monthly technical meetings with constant monitoring of range recovery and specific test plots by government staff and researchers. Participants heard that


range areas impacted by the Elephant Hill fire have been ordered closed for three years. That is the minimum time expected for grasses to recover to a level that can support grazing while infrastructure, including fences and water crossings, are being replaced and timber salvage options are being discussed. Ashcroft Ranch, the major


tenure holder in the fire- affected area, has sufficient alternate range available to


maintain a grazing program for its cattle, but that’s not the case for many smaller First Nations ranching operations. In an area that can support


four cuts of hay each year, losing access to range means small First Nations ranchers use up hay supplies – both their own and those of neighbours – faster, and must buy hay to sustain their herds. “We hope that we can get back on the land soon,” says Vi Antoine, a rancher and member of Bonaparte First Nation.


Variety of impacts


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One of the difficulties range managers face in making decisions is the various effects wildfire has. In severely burned areas, all organic matter in the soil is destroyed and grass takes a long time to recover, with weeds often getting a first hold on the empty landscape. Fire-affected soil is also less able to absorb water for the first couple of years, contributing to run off and raising the risk of flash floods. The tour discussed the role cattle can play in range recovery. Cows will eat weeds, grazing can stimulate the growth of grasses and trampling can return vegetation to the soil as well as turn up the water- impermeable layer and increase water-holding capacity while manure supplies organic matter and nutrients. But if cows are on the land too early, they can destroy the first flush of grass. With local mill closures, salvage harvesting becomes more difficult and fire- affected timber can be lost. In


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• BEEF • VEAL • BISON • LAMB • GOAT • DEER


COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • AUGUST 2019


A perfect example of how, even in a relatively small area, wildfire has a wide range of impacts. On the far right, trees are not overly burned and have re-seeded very well. in the middle, severe burning has taken out trees but there is sufficient soil and moisture to allow grass to return. But on the upper hillside, the burn has destroyed organic matter and grass is not returning. In the photo below, pine grass is returning to areas burned by wildfire, but there is still plenty of bare soil with little organic matter, an opportunity for weeds to take hold ahead of the grass. TOM WALKER PHOTOS


an era when “every tree has a company name on it,” as more than one speaker said, timber values are a significant driver in decision-making. With the current policy of fire suppression, some areas of the province have seen forest encroachment on grasslands. Meanwhile, ranchers are mindful of trees being replanted in areas that could


be growing forage. As one speaker extolled, human values are driving how we look at the function of post-fire ecosystems, such as the importance of grass or timber or recreation. “Perhaps that is the wrong


way around,” says Pat Byrne, manager of natural resource


operations in 100 Mile House for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Perhaps we should manage for ecosystem resilience, and let nature decide how to prioritize the rest.”


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Four feedlots are looking to acquire a combined total of 12,000 head of ranch direct calves from across the province. All weights of steers and heifers are wanted.


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