Using cattle to reduce wildfire risks

Using cattle to reduce wildfire risks
May 27, 2019

The B.C. Cattlemen’s Association will investigate using livestock to manage fine fuels in parts of the province

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

British Columbia is investigating a new tool in the battle to keep residents safe from wildfires.

On Saturday, British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development announced a $500,000 investment to the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association to “develop partnerships and investigate an initiative that will use grazing livestock to manage fine fuels in parts of B.C.”

The province defines fine fuels as “fuels that ignite readily and are consumed rapidly by fire.” They include grass, fallen leaves, needles and small twigs.

Taking a unique approach to wildfire prevention can help support the ag industry, said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

“B.C.’s beef producers are well known for raising high-quality grass- and range-fed beef, and we’re working with them to find ways to combine that practice with reducing vegetation that fuels wildfires,” she said in a statement Saturday. “It’s an intriguing model that I’m hopeful will become a mainstay in our efforts to protect our communities and resources from fires, as well as supporting B.C. ranchers and B.C. beef.”

Some communities are already using farm animals to control wildfire risks.

In San Francisco, for example, at least one farmer rents out some of his 3,500 goats to help people concerned about the chance of wildfires.

Some of Mike Canaday’s clients include the Ventura County Fire Department, which is thankful for the goats’ assistance.

“When we gaze goats in an area, all of the fuel is removed before fire season and it doesn’t grow back until the following season,” Kenneth VanWig, chief of the Ventura County Fire Department, told Sierra Club in September 2018.

Wildfires have become an increasingly serious issue in B.C.

More than 2,100 wildfires burned 1.349 million hectares (3.33 million acres) across the province in 2018. The fires resulted in a state of emergency which lasted from Aug. 15 to Sept. 7.

Using livestock to reduce the risks can show how important the ag industry is, said Kevin Boon, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.

Wildfire events have “shown us the value of agriculture, specifically cattle grazing, in mitigating the start or spread of fires while assisting firefighting efforts,” he said in a statement Saturday. Cattle grazing reduces the fine fuels available for fires to take hold. This funding will allow us to develop partnerships in interface areas to help protect our lands, forests and communities, while producing some of the best quality food in the world.” has reached out to the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association and local beef producers for comment.

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