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Grazing – A Fire Suppression Tool

Is cattle grazing in high county forests the best, most ecologically sound method of keeping forests fire-safe?

Is mechanical thinning less effective without allowing trees up to 31.5-inches in diameter to be cut.

With talk of fire-proofing the Sierra´s forest lands all the rage right now, the U.S. Forest Service, environmentalist groups, logging firms, and politicians are beginning to look at ways to work together in developing strategies to help stop wildfires from ripping through forests and communities.

Local environmental group director John Buckley urged the large group gathered Friday for the Natural Resources Summit in Sonora to “use all the tools” necessary to help keep the forests from burning.

He said all concerned parties “must move beyond interest goals to a more collaborative effort.” He predicted that environmental groups will give stronger support to large scale thinning projects, but added; “Removing trees doesn´t solve the fire problem alone.”

Prescribed burning fits into Buckley´s plan, but according to cattle rancher and Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment (TuCARE) board member Jim Short, grazing the forest after the thinning and burning is the “most effective way” to keep the underbrush from building up again.

“We also need to understand (cattle grazing) is another tool for fire suppression,” Short told the nearly 300 people gathered at the summit Friday.

He said after all the forest sculpting, thinning and burning is to done, the grass is going to come. “Deer don´t eat the grass. They eat some. But the cattle or goats are going to have to harvest that grass,” he said.

Short isn´t alone in his thinking. Fire prevention is going to the goats in Tehama County. More than 600 goats are being allowed into areas of brush and vegetation, where they eat just about anything that could catch fire. When they are full, California Department of Forestry officials come in and clear out the remaining vegetation. The goats can eat up to one acre of brush a day.