…Fish and Wildlife Service report: “Grazing benefits endangered wildlife, specifically by reducing the dominance of non-native grasses that suck up water and shorten the seasonal lifespan of pool breeding habitats.”
Cattle as Conservationists
There is a key word in any messaging that purports to show the value of what would otherwise be a controversial initiative.
It’s called “management,” or more accurately, “proper management.”
For example: Most big cities in the U.S. are struggling to balance population growth — which increases tax revenues and spurs business development — with the need for new housing and expansion of such services as the delivery of utilities.
Add in the need to control sprawl by promoting housing density while avoiding overly strict land-use regulations, and “management” becomes more than a buzzword. It’s the essential ingredient to successful urban planning.
Here’s an even better example: livestock production, specifically beef production.
Amidst all of the media salivation over “clean meat,” what gets lost in the (alleged) calculations about energy savings and animal welfare is the impact of conventional agriculture on the very resources — water, soil and vegetation — that are simply assumed to be a “given” among all the clean meat proponents who imagine a future where food is magically manufactured in energy-intensive factories.
In truth, one of the biggest long-term challenges facing this country is maintaining its food security as global population growth expands the markets for food exports across Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. It’s great that U.S. agriculture is helping feed the world, but not only must we as a nation maintain our domestic food chain, we must maintain the land needed to produce the crops needed to maintain that production chain, even if we’re talking about alt-meat products grown in what amounts to giant test tubes.
The Before and After Comparison
Back to the concept of management, because it applies specifically to animal agriculture.
Ask the proverbial 100 people in the street their views on grazing cattle on public lands, and I’ll bet the majority would consider it to be suspect, if not an outright abomination.
Yet examples abound of the synergies — many only recently realized — of strategically grazing bovines on rangeland where grassy vegetation predominates.
Here’s a great example, and it’s one that isn’t being touted by some wild-eyed industry shill, but by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As a recent report on the Service’s website noted, in the San Francisco Bay area, “grazing lands for cattle have been squeezed out by sprawling development,” a problem that’s endemic to many more places than San Francisco (as noted a few paragraphs above).
However, a public-private partnership with the Imhof family, ranchers Frank and his son, Frank Jr., places grazing cattle on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont, Calif.
The project takes place on the Warm Springs unit of the refuge, a 719-acre “vernal pool” grassland where seasonal ponds support several endangered species, such as the tadpole shrimp and California tiger salamanders.
Now, the average American (unfortunately) could care less about tadpole shrimp and tiger salamanders, but they do care about protecting wildlife — the more iconic species, anyway — and preserving natural habitats containing water resources and green space.
Especially in California, which is desperately short of both.
Here’s what this experiment, and many others, quite frankly, have proven, and I’m quoting from the Fish and Wildlife Service report: “Grazing benefits endangered wildlife, specifically by reducing the dominance of non-native grasses that suck up water and shorten the seasonal lifespan of pool breeding habitats.”
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