October 2020 California Cattleman

Page 40

CONSERVATION AT WORK

Ranchers highlighted in new NRCS videos by Anita Brown for NRCS California There’s a new and easy way to see conservation on the landscape with real ranchers trying to achieve real progress on the land. From the comfort of your home or truck, you can now view succinct YouTube videos called Conservation at Work demonstrating 27 different conservation practices from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Almost a third of this first set of videos focus on rangeland. The videos show landowners and conservationists from across America. Together they are working to make the landscape healthier—while helping producers to be more economically sustainable and profitable. Five of the videos were shot in California. For over 80 years California ranchers have walked their land with NRCS conservationists—discussing resource concerns such as erosion, water quantity and quality, invasive weeds, healthy vegetation and forage and ways to incorporate structural practices to improve management of their livestock. Together ranchers and conservationists discuss plans for the land and the animals and some strategies that might be used. Then they commit these ideas into conservation plans using the type of conservation practices shown in these videos. “Of course, unless you have a computer for a brain, it’s impossible to keep all this good information in your head,” says Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for California. “While the gold standard continues to be face-to-face visits, NRCS has long offered ranchers many ways of gathering and storing information—things like fact sheets,

newsletters, brochures and websites. These short twominute videos will really add a welcome addition to our library.” Practices, such as fencing and/or livestock water developments (pipeline, troughs, etc.) coupled with prescribed grazing management are often packaged together like building blocks to help ranchers and other landowners achieve conservation goals and objectives. Similarly, the videos feature one practice at a time, though they are usually combined to achieve desired goals. Other video practices most relevant to rangeland include Brush Management, Forage and Biomass Planting, Trails and Walkways, Water Well and Watering Facility. What does this look like in California? Fletch Nelson, NRCS range conservationist in Fresno, says, “By far our most popular projects in this area are stockwater systems. Whether it’s getting stockwater to a distant corner of a pasture or getting it to the top of a hill or ridge, the aim is to improve animal distribution and take advantage of underutilized feed.” And how does that help the environment? “The resource benefit is evening out grazing pressure and pulling animals off overused areas like the flats and riparian areas,” says Nelson. “We use fence for the same purpose—to force animals to use places they’d otherwise avoid, and to keep them out of places where they hang out too much.” Nelson says that in central California about 80 percent

A water tank and solar panel project is just one implemented conservation improvement highlighted from a livestock operation near Petaluma. 40 California Cattleman October 2020

This El Dorado County cattle ranch upgraded fencing to facilitate livestock distribution and protect land from overgrazing and erosion.

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