Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Working Landscapes

I'm often amazed by the number of free programs that are offered that nobody seems to know about. Take for instance Nevada County Resource Conservation District ( This is a government funded agency which promotes responsible resource management by educating and assisting landowner and land managers through education, leadership, technical and financial assistance, and project facilitation. And it's almost all free!

Today I attended a free brown bag lunch workshop entitled "Working Landscapes: The Environmental Benefits of Grazing" presented by NCRCD. What are working landscapes? Here's a quote from one of the handouts. "Working landscapes consist of farms, ranches and actively managed forestlands. California' working landscapes provide jobs, local tax base, a variety of environmental services, scenic open space, and much of the food and fiber Americans consume."

Today I'll summarize the first of the three speakers, Sheila Barry, UC Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor for the Bay Area. Her focus was on UC research documenting the many benefits of managed grazing, especially fire fuel management, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, increased biodiversity, maintenance of critical endangered species' habitat, recreation, and providing on going, consistent stewardship.

Unfortunately, there are many negative perceptions around ranchers and grazing, including leftover cow pies, overgrazing, and how to manage a changed landscape. Perhaps the most important part of these perceptions is that the successful stories are not connected in the minds of the public. However, there are only a few bad apples among ranchers and farmers. Most ranchers share environmental concerns; in fact, their livelihoods depend preserving clean water, biodiversity and healthy soils, and prove to be excellent stewards of the lands they own or manage.