My last post on RightWayToBeGreen.com (THANKS AUDUBON — FOR REAL ENVIRONMENTALISM WHEN WE NEED IT!) expressed my surprise (and encouragement) at discovering an article published on the National Audubon Society’s website, in which Audubon stated that… cattle ranchers (and their cows) are Helping to Save Western Grasslands and Birds. For some time now I’ve been of the opinion that Audubon, along with most establishment environmental groups, has believed (and acted upon the belief) that grazing by livestock — cows and other critters — is bad for the environment and, in the case of Audubon, especially bad for birds.
At this point, I want to make it clear that I’m not an ”anti” when it comes to Audubon or environmentalism. Actually, I helped form an Audubon Chapter in Ohio some time ago. Another enviro group I was active in when I moved to Arizona in 1980, is the Sierra Club. How active? In 1992 I was designated one of the 100 top grass roots activists in the United States by the Sierra Club on the 100th anniversary of the passing of its founder — John Muir.
In light of all that, it might be confusing to some that one of the reasons I stopped being active in the Sierra Club, and eventually let my membership lapse, was because of its position on grazing, especially its opposition to the fact that grazing can be environmentally beneficial (a la the Audubon article). That position contradicted what I learned via personal experience as I became familiar with and environmentally active in the wild country that there was so much of in my new home — Arizona.
For those of you who have been reading RightWayToBeGreen.com you might remember the post: Fake Green, Fake Science, the Sierra Club (and George Monbiot in The Guardian) Don’t Add Up! Whether you’ve visited it or not you might want to do so now because it contains a lot of info on why my opinion of the eco-effects of grazing herd animals changed.
I wrote ”Fake Green” to counter some of the things written in an article in the Sierra Club’s national magazine entitled: ”Allan Savory’s Holistic Management Theory Falls Short on Science” by Christopher Ketcham. Allan Savory is and has been one of the chief proponents of the fact that livestock grazing, when done in a way that mimics grazing of natural herd animals (bison, wildebeest, etc) sustains the ecosystems of which those animals are a part in much the same way that many natural ”users” sustain the things they use — hummingbirds and flowers, for instance. Savory came up with this insight while serving as a wildlife manager in the country we now call Zimbabwe in Africa, where he was born and lived early on. And then he brought those insights with him when he moved to America in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Most of my experience with livestock grazing as a means to positive ecological effects came from ranchers and other land managers who were applying Savory’s insights and methods. Interestingly, statements made by scientists in Ketcham’s article contradicted virtually every one of those experiences.
For instance: The article quotes United States-based rangeland scientists stating that the Savory method ”can not green deserts or reverse climate change,” and that Savory’s claims “are not only unsupported by scientific information, but they are often in direct conflict with it… We find all of Mr. Savory’s major claims to be unfounded.”
Another scientist adds, ”I visited ranchers in New Mexico where Savory has consulted. These are people who tried it and who either modified or abandoned it because the results were a train wreck.”
Again, an excellent place to view those comments, along with photos that illustrate which ”major claims are unfounded” is in Fake Green. (Hint: Savory is right on target). What inspired me to write the post you’re reading now, however, is that while looking for the latest entry in the crusade to prove that restorative grazing always results in a train wreck, I ran across another, more recent article, in Sierra Magazine that, you guessed it, said positive things about livestock grazing.
Shades of Audubon, here it is: Demand for Grazing Goats Is Growing Like Wildfire — Ruminants are a righteous way to reduce fire risks —Jodi Helmer 9/3/2018. Helmer’s article includes a number of valuable quotes, such as, ”Across California and the West, goats are being dispatched to overgrown patches of land to chomp down vegetation and help create firebreaks to prevent fires from jumping from wildlands to homes and businesses.”
She quotes Mike Canaday, firegoat-herder of Living Systems Land Management, who says ”We are screaming busy from mid-April to mid-July because of the fires.”
How busy? According to Helmer, ”In 2018, 43,255 fires (and counting) have been reported nationwide, burning almost 6 million acres—the highest number of fires since 2012.”
In Arizona, as I write this, Wikipedia states that, as of July 23 in the current year (2020), 622,940 acres have burned in Arizona, 38 buildings were destroyed and 80 homes had to be evacuated.
Why is wildfire such a problem? Helmer writes: “there is solid data that climate change is increasing the likelihood that fires will become more intense while also lengthening the fire season.”
How can we deal with that? Kenneth VanWig, chief of the Ventura County Fire Department — one of ”screamingly busy” Mike Canaday’s clients, provided Helmer with this answer: ”The four-legged firefighters are the best fire prevention tools available… When we graze goats in an area, all of the fuel is removed before fire season, and it doesn’t grow back until the following season.”
That seems to me to mean that grazing can and does reduce the impact of climate change — by reducing the likelihood, intensity, and season (through prevention) of one of its most destructive manifestations — wildfire. That certainly qualifies as a reduction in impact, a very important one, at that. Also, by reducing wildfires in all those ways grazing reduces the production by fire of CO2. High levels of CO2 is the main cause of Climate Change. Less fire, because of goat grazing = less CO2 = less CC.
”But what about overgrazing,” some of you may ask? Isn’t that one of the things that causes Climate Change? According to Tony Gonzalez, owner of Gonzalez Brush Busters, ”Unless you pour concrete, the grasses will keep coming back.”
Here’s another post on RightWayToBeGreen.com that deals with that very issue. It’s called FIRE DANGER IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD! and uses photos of land grazed to reduce fire danger (among other things) to make the point summed up by Mr. Canaday in the Sierra Magazine article… ”Goats, if properly managed, leave the earth better than they found it, and you know that your goats can help save people’s homes and, sometimes, people’s lives.”
Saves people’s homes and lives? Leaves the earth better than they found it! If that’s not an important reduction in the impact of Climate Change, I don’t know what is. And the fact that this effect can be had by other grazing animals, besides goats, if managed toward that goal, is an important aspect of this realization as well.
At the risk of being repetitious, let’s look at evidence showing that Ketcham’s quote of scientists stating that the Savory method of using grazing as a restorative tool. ”can not green deserts.” (Greening deserts, you know, is another way to reduce global warming/climate change.)
Click on this: IN HONOR OF ONE OF NATURE’S MOST EFFECTIVE RESTORERS
The main thing this proves to me is that working together to solve problems is more effective than conducting studies to prove you’re right and someone using a solution you oppose is wrong.