British Columbia

B.C. enlists cattle to help fight wildfires in targeted grazing program

The B.C. Cattlemen's Association will investigate how to use cattle to manage fine fire fuels, including cured grass, fallen leaves, needles, and small twigs that ignite easily.

Province says targeted grazing is low-carbon and cost effective

The B.C. government wants to use cattle to fight against an increasing number of wildfires in the province. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Livestock and cattle will soon help fight wildfires in British Columbia as the province looks to create a targeted grazing program.

The B.C. government will give $500,000 to the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, according to a statement released Saturday by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The association will develop partnerships and investigate how to use the cattle to manage fine fuels. These include cured grass, fallen leaves, needles, small twigs and any other fuels that ignite readily and are rapidly consumed by fire.

The province will work together with local governments, the ranching sector and Indigenous communities.

"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," Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said in a statement.

Powerful tool

It's not a solution, but a powerful tool when combined with other methods, like prescribed burning and selective tree harvesting, the government said, noting wildfire prevention programs in southern Europe and parts of the U.S. already successfully use livestock in this manner.

Targeted grazing is low-carbon and cost effective, it said, while supporting local food production and giving ranchers new opportunities.

"It's one example of what we're doing to reduce the threat of wildfires, while supporting the ranching sector and maintaining wildlife habitat in our province," said Doug Donaldson, minister of forests.

In 2018, there was a "record-setting area burned" by wildfires in the province, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.

More than 2,100 fires consumed roughly 1.35 million hectares of land — up from the previous record of more than 1.2 million hectares in 2017.

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