|cheat grass & knapweed dominated pasture|
Compounding the absurdity of the award are complaints by Mr Fossen to the Western Producer of competition from exploding populations of deer and elk and suggestions that declining forage has forced wildlife to move more into grasslands and riparian areas. Mr Fossen complains that lessees cannot turn cattle out until the grass is ready and that it is difficult for ranchers to assess when the grass is ready when wildlife are grazing it down.
Any non-rancher in this area (except some town dwellers and a few ranchers, but there's another story there that doesn't reflect well on cattle grazing) would know that wildlife populations have declined over the past 20 years and more, and blaming wildlife for delaying grass readiness for cattle, is an absurdity. Many factors affect grass emergence in spring but the primarily natural ones are the variables of moisture and temperature. It is evident that private ungrazed lands adjacent to the Range Unit show significantly better growth and variety of desirable plant communities, than the range area. These contrasts are evident before the annual arrival of range cows. Clearly soil compaction, overgrazing, poor grazing timing, poor oversight or some combination of these factors is making the significant difference between range and private land. While Mr Fossen and many other ranchers blame forest ingrowth and wildlife for degraded and poor pastures, they and the responsible ministry need to address the major cause, cattle grazing itself.
A so called Ecosystem Restoration project in the Johnstone Creek pasture began two years ago. The project has spent several hundred thousand dollars sourcing a variety of public funds, to primarily benefit range cattle grazing on public land where the annual rental fee has been around $160.00 or less. While Government claims that this project is primarily to benefit wildlife and obtained the majority of funding from the BC Habitat Conservation Fund, the reality is a project of primary benefit to cattle grazing which doesn't meet the mandate of HCF or the expectations of the hunter/fishers whose fees on licences, form the bulk of HCF funding.
It is more than unfortunate and a great cost to the public, that ranchers complaints about declining forage and wildlife effects, are accepted as guiding principles by MFLNRO while the primary causal effects of cow grazing on the degraded resource are largely ignored. It is more than time for change.
More detail and pics available in the extended version on the Boundary Alliance website: