Roots of Resilience

Tag Archives: Fire Prevention

Land Trusts, Conservation Groups, and Agencies—Grazing Conference Sessions Just for You

Close up photo of diverse rangeland species. Yellow and blue flowers

Improving rangeland diversity. NRCS photo by Bob Nichols

Managing Grasslands for Climate Resilience and Environmental Restoration

Protect Grasslands, Regenerate Soil, Sequester Carbon

Do you own, manage, or hold conservation easements on grasslands? Or do you work with ranchers or owners or managers of grazing land? Learn how grasslands can be managed to:

  • Increase soil carbon sequestration
  • Improve water infiltration, water quality, and riparian habitat
  • Restore soil health
  • Reduce fire risk
  • Produce more forage (and more profit)

By permanently protecting eligible grassland, you might even be able to get paid for carbon credits.

These topics and more will be presented at the Northwest Grazing Conference 2017: Managing for Resilience, May 10 and 11, Pendleton Convention Center, Pendleton. Oregon.

Find more info at the main conference page. Ready to sign up? You can

Click on this Register now button to register for the conference

Grassland Carbon Credits—Get Paid to Permanently Protect Grassland

Max DuBuisson, Director of Policy for the Climate Action Reserve; Mik McKee, The Climate Trust; and Rebecca Haynes, Environmental Defense Fund, will present a session on carbon offset credits.

Learn how you can earn carbon offset credits for permanently protection grasslands in the Grassland Carbon Credits session on day two of the conference.

Markets for carbon offset credits have existing for more than 20 years, gaining significant size and maturity in the last decade. However, these markets have only recently been able to provide incentives for grassland conservation

In 2015 the Climate Action Reserve, a private, nonprofit carbon offset registry, developed an offset project protocol for the avoided conversion of grassland to cropland. These projects are attractive to landowners who are interested in long-term conservation, but require additional incentive to commit to permanent protection. They are also attractive to land trusts who need an additional source of funding to support conservation activities.

The long-term management of a grassland carbon project dovetails neatly with the existing work of land trusts. Also in 2015, the Reserve, along with several partners, received a two-year Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA NRCS to support implementation and outreach related to grassland carbon projects. This session will include an introduction to carbon markets, a basic overview of the grassland protocol, how to assess the feasibility of a grassland project, and information regarding the project economics.

More Sessions on Land Conservation and Restoration

Water Quality and Riparian Management

Tipton Hudson, Kittitas County Director, Washington State University Extension focuses on sustainable rangeland grazing, ecosystem monitoring, and protecting and improving riparian function and watershed health through smarter grazing practices. He works with ranchers, regulators, and natural resource professionals to support the adoption of management practices that improve rangeland conditions and water quality.

Tip’s session on Water Quality and Riparian Management will be repeated both days.

Soil Carbon Sequestration

Peter Donovan, co-founder of the Soil Carbon Coalition, believes opportunity for increasing carbon and water in the soil is huge. And that increasing soil carbon will help drive improvement in social and economic conditions as well as enhance biodiversity and ecological resiliency.

Peter has spent the past several years touring the country collecting soil carbon data as part of the Soil Carbon Challenge. He will share what he’s learned through his many years of practicing Holistic Management and working with innovative natural resource stewards.

Peter’s session on Soil Carbon Sequestration will be on day two of the conference.

Targeted Grazing

Karen Launchbaugh, rangeland scientist and Director of the University of Idaho Rangeland Center, is  editor of Targeted Grazing: A Natural Approach to Vegetation Management and Landscape Enhancement, a handbook on grazing as a new ecological service.

From the Introduction to Targeted Grazing, by Dr. Launchbaugh and John Walker:

“Grazing by wild and domestic animals is a powerful natural force working in all ecosystems. The kind and abundance of plants that characterize any plant community are a result of the climate, soils, and herbivores including insects, wildlife, and livestock that inhabit that place. The regenerative or destructive power of herbivory to shape plant communities has been demonstrated time and time again as humans have managed the grazing of domestic livestock. For better or worse, livestock grazing has been applied for thousands of years in ways that change plant communities. Along with fire, grazing is the oldest vegetation management tool.

“Today, livestock grazing is being rediscovered and honed as a viable and effective tool to address contemporary vegetation management challenges, like controlling invasive exotic weeds, reducing fire risk in the wildland-urban interface, and finding chemical-free ways to control weeds in organic agriculture. The challenge of converting livestock grazing from a ubiquitous land use into a powerful vegetation shaping tool requires a paradigm shift for both land managers and livestock producers.”

Dr. Launchbaugh’s session is on day two of the conference.

Targeted Grazing and Fire Control

Chris Schachtschneider will continue the targeted grazing theme. Chris is Livestock and Natural Resource Assistant Professor with University of Oregon Cooperative Extension, Umatilla County. He will present his recent research on where and how targeted livestock grazing can play a role in fire control.

Chris’s session is on day two of the conference.

Biochar to Improve Degraded Range

Jim Archuleta, is a Forest Soil Scientist with Umatilla National Forest. He’s also a member of the steering committee of the Northwest Biochar Working Group. Jim has collaborated on research on how land managers can convert waste wood to biochar that is used to improve degraded soil.

Forest managers remove excess wood from forests to reduce wildfire hazard. The woody material is typically burned in slash piles. This process can harm soil and pollute the air with smoke and particulate emissions. Burning the wood in the absence of oxygen creates charcoal (biochar). This process reduces air pollution and the harmful impacts on the soil.

The biochar can be applied to soil to improve soil productivity and water infiltration. Biochar is a stable form of carbon, so this also sequesters more carbon in the soil.

Jim’s session will be on day two of the conference.

Intros to Holistic Management Land Planning and Monitoring Methods

Everything you wanted to know about Holistic Management, but were afraid to ask!

The Roots of Resilience Team will be presenting introductions to the full suite of Holistic Management land planning and monitoring methods. These sessions will all be on day two of the conference.

  • Introduction to Holistic Management—how to develop a Holistic Context for decision making and test your decisions based on your context
  • Introduction to Monitoring—the basics of ecological monitoring and recognizing indicators of ecological health
  • Introduction to Holistic Land Planning—how to plan for infrastructure and other improvements to your land
  • Holistic Planned Grazing—an extended afternoon session on how to develop a grazing plan that that puts your animals in the right place at right time for the right reason

More conference info at the main conference page or, if you’re ready to sign up, you can

Click on this Register now button to register for the conference

Thank You Conference Sponsors

Soil Builder

Logo for Country Natural Beef Co-opInnovator

Southworth Brothers Ranch

Pacific Intermountain Mortgage Company

Grazing and Fire

Grazing Leads to Greener Pastures

by Craig Madsen, Healing Hooves

Travis Bruner recently published an article on The Wildlife News website claiming that “Grazing Leads to Blazing,” blaming cattle for the severity of this year’s fire season. He makes several common errors in reaching this conclusion.

The tool of grazing can have a beneficial or negative impact on plant communities depending on how well it is managed. It is true that poor management of livestock has resulted in significant changes in the plant community on western rangeland. There are areas throughout the West where overgrazing has resulted in the loss of native bunchgrasses and the invasion of annual grasses such as cheatgrass, but we need to understand what overgrazing really is. Overgrazing occurs when the plant is grazed a second time before it has time to recover from the first grazing. It is the level of management that determines whether or not the tool of grazing has a beneficial or negative impact on the ecosystem, not the simple presence of livestock.

As Aldo Leopold so eloquently stated, we must restore balance with the ““creative use of the same tools that have heretofore destroyed it – axe, plow, cow, fire, and gun.”

 Several studies have shown the beneficial use of the tool of grazing. Planned grazing has been used to reduce the amount of annual grasses on rangelands, as shown in the publication “Grazing Invasive Annual Grasses: The Green Brown Guide,” a publication by USDA ARS. Another study conducted on the Great Basin Experimental Range in Southeastern Oregon showed that moderate grazing of sagebrush plant communities with livestock increased the ability of the native plant community to tolerate fire and thus prevent cheatgrass from increasing (“Grazing History influences the response of Sagebrush Plant Communities to Fire, Davies, Svejcar, and Bates”). This study reported in areas where livestock were excluded for more than 50 years after a burn, cheatgrass production went from less than 10 lbs/acre to close to 300 lbs/acre. In the moderately grazed sites, cheatgrass production went from less than 10lbs/acre to about 30 lbs/acre. The significant increase in cheatgrass production in the ungrazed area could lead to more frequent fires. Proper grazing in that context appears to protect the habitat of sage-grouse and other wildlife that are dependent on sagebrush communities.

In both studies it is the proper application of the tool of grazing and animal impact that had the beneficial impact. Animal impact includes all activities of the grazing animal including depositing dung and urine and trampling of vegetation. Due to complexity of the ecosystem and the number of variables to consider in the application of the tool of grazing/animal impact, it takes careful planning and monitoring to get the beneficial results.

There are two key points to keep in mind. First, many plant communities, especially in areas where moisture is poorly distributed through out the year, depend on grazing and animal impact to maintain a healthy plant community. Second, timing is a critical factor in the proper management of livestock. Eliminating grazing from public lands or using artificial timetables for movement and stocking ignore these two points.

 In drier environments the biological activity necessary to break down plant material at the soil surface is limited to times when moisture is available. The grazing animal carries the moist environment needed to break down plant material within its digestive system. In these dry environments grazing and animal impact helps to maintain the vigor of the plants by cycling the nutrients through dung and urine, removing plant material that prevents sunlight from reaching the base of the plant where the new growth is starting, and trampling plant material on the ground which provides soil cover. The plant material on the soil surface reduces the erosive impact of rain drops, allowing for more water to be absorbed versus running off as well as covering the soil to reduce evaporation. Trampling the plant material places it in contact with the ground where microorganisms can break it down and create organic matter, continuing the nutrient cycling process.

Grazing Animals cycle nutrients more effectively than standing dead grass.

Grazing Herbivores Cycle Nutrients

 The role of timing is key factor in the use of the tool of grazing. Timing can be looked at in three ways: (1) the time of year the area is grazed, (2) length of time the animals stays at a specific location, and (3) the length of time before the animals return to a specific location. The correct timing of grazing is influenced by the context of each situation.

For example, assume we have a common situation where the predominant vegetation is annual grasses with a remnant population of native grasses, and our objective is increasing the native grass component. For this very simple grazing plan, our focus will be on preventing the annual grasses from producing seed and limiting livestock utilization on the native bunchgrasses. The time of year to graze will be when the annual grasses are green and the native bunchgrasses are dormant (brown). At this time of year the livestock are going to prefer the green annual grasses. The length of time on the site will be based on when the annual grasses are fully utilized while maintaining the desired stubble height on the dormant native grasses. When to return? The time to return depends on two main factors: regrowth on the annual grasses and whether or not growth has started on the native bunchgrasses. If soil moisture enabled regrowth on the annual grasses but the native bunchgrasses are still dormant, then a second grazing is allowed. If the native bunchgrasses are growing and growth is above the stubble height created by previous grazing, then grazing will be delayed until the native grasses have completed their growth cycle, after seed set. For more information on reducing annual grasses by grazing see the publication “Grazing Invasive Annual Grasses: The Green Brown Guide.”

Mr. Bruner calls for the “passive restoration of the landscape”. I am assuming he means applying the tool of “rest” to the landscape. We may not think of resting the land as a tool but it is a decision and resting the land has an impact.

 The tool of rest is a powerful tool. In moist environments you see an opening in the trees quickly reclaimed by the forest. In drier environments where moisture is not well distributed throughout the year, short term rest can result in native plants recovering from past overgrazing. Long-term rest in these dry environments can have the opposite results. In some situations you see native bunchgrasses dying, increased bare ground and as a result increased erosion. Allan Savory talks about this situation in his TED talk showing pictures of national parks in the Western United States where livestock have been excluded for over 70 years, native plants are dying, and erosion is increasing (http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change?language=en)

Grazed vs. ungrazed. The grazed area sports new growth.

Note the un-grazed area to the left of the fence. The right side was grazed six weeks before. There is significant green re-growth on the grazed side. The decadent un-grazed side creates more dry fuel for fire.

The tools of grazing, animal impact and rest all have impacts on the land. The impact is dependent on how the tools are applied and the type of environment the where the tools are being used. As with any tool the effect is dependent on how the tool is applied. The tools of grazing and animal impact have been used to reduce annual grasses on rangeland, improve wildlife habitat and increase the absorption of rain. These tools must be applied in a manner that deals with the complexity of the area being managed. Holistic Planned Grazing™ is one method of dealing with the complexity of the ecosystem as well as the context being managed. It planning system that places the right livestock in the right place at the right time for the right reason to meet the landscape objectives. For more information about Holistic Planned Grazing see the following link http://savory.global/assets/docs/evidence-papers/The_Science_and_Methodolgy_of_Holistic_Planned_Grazing.pdf