Cattle in the Sierras Museum Display
Date(s) - 01/01/2018 - 01/25/2018
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Murphys Old Timers Museum
Exhibit: January 1, 2018 — April 29, 2018–Museum hours: Friday -Sunday 12-4 pm
Funded by a California Stories grant from California Humanities, the Murphys Old Timers Museum, has produced an exhibit on the long-established practice of transhumance in the California Foothills and Sierra Nevada. Since gold was discovered in California in the winter of 1848, cattle have roamed the foothills in winter and spring, summered in the rich grasslands of the Sierra Nevada, and returned to their lowland homes in the fall. This annual pattern (transhumance), with established ranches and farms in the lower elevations and summer camps and pasturages in the high mountain meadows, is rapidly disappearing. Threatened with the diminishing price of beef to producers, difficulties in transporting livestock to their summer ranges, and environmental regulations, this 160-year old California tradition may disappear in the near future. Proponents of grazing argue that this will result in loss of mountain meadows and ponds as well as lowland ranches with their grass ranges to residential sprawl. Some environmental and hiking groups contend that livestock grazing in the mountains has led to degradation of streams and native ecosystems. The exhibit, and a video, recount the stories of historic cattle ranching in the California foothills and its battle to stay alive in the face of current environmental and economic challenges, also addressing the effects of its continued operation on mountain ecosystems. Utilizing historical and current photographs and the installation of a 1911 high country cow camp, this exhibit argues that by working together to solve grazing issues, ranchers, the Forest Service, scientists, environmental groups, and the public can resolve their differences, resulting in a win-win for all. A 15-minute video, presenting both sides of the issue and a hope for reconciliation, is forthcoming.