- vegetation and watershed management
- fire fuel control
- management of habitat of rare and endangered species.
UC Cooperative Extension created, “Ecosystem Services Curriculum and Interpretative Trail Signage”, to increase awareness and knowledge of park visitors, managers and decision makers about working rangelands and the ecosystem services. Bay area open space lands provide an unprecedented opportunity to educate both the public and policy makers and the ecosystem service curriculum, “Understanding Working Rangelands” in cooperation with the Sonoma County Regional Parks, targets decision makers, park interpreters, and park users that visit these grazed open space annually in Sonoma County. Curriculum on beef cattle husbandry, cattle behavior, grazing management, ranching economics and infrastructure is found in a series of fact sheets and interpretative trail signage (1 of 3 panels pictured below) on working rangelands.
Whether working ranches are on public or private land, many Sonoma County ranchers represent the fourth, fifth, or sixth generations that have stewarded the land and their livestock. These working ranches also contribute over $30 million per year to Sonoma economy and represent the third-highest value agricultural commodity in the region (Sonoma County Crop Report 2015). These ecosystem services also provide improved overall human health, through increased park and trail access. A more informed public will lead to a stronger social cohesion between beef cattle grazers and the park users. This is an opportunity to strengthen the health and outdoor connections on working landscapes, i.e. rangelands, through ecosystem services curriculum and interpretive trail signage.
Recently, my classmates and I went on a hike through Taylor Mountain to learn about the multiple uses of rangelands for ranchers and for the public. As a professional whose whole job is to connect people with the animal world, I was taken by what a rare experience it was for so many people to see something so mundane as a cow.
I'm willing to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone for being impressed by this. When I first moved to the Bay and went hiking through Mount Diablo where cows were grazing I was just as bad as anyone. I asked myself questions like “Is that safe?” “Am I supposed to go in there? Did I read that right?” These are not quarrelsome charging water buffalo or wild deer, these are the standard of what livestock is but it seemed like a daring experience to go walking past them in an uncontrolled environment. I had no idea what the rules were for interacting with them but it didn't take much to learn them.
What does this say about society that seeing a cow is a noteworthy experience? Are we really that accustomed to city life and only seeing other human beings that this is considered daring? I've got a lot more exotic animal experience than most people but I found myself feeling rejuvenated by the glory of the animal world just by interacting with these “dumb cows.”
I dread the generations that are very quickly coming up where there will be no nature left, where it's not possible to take a break from the city and just walk through the blank slate of a hillside and feel yourself refreshed by clean air and rolling hills. I feel like just this one quick trip was enough to motivate me to keep preservation of rangelands in my mind and I hope other people will always have the opportunity to have the same experience.
This semester, I am teaching Range Management at Santa Rosa Junior College. I have asked my students to give their impressions of what they are learning in the form of a blog. This blog was written by student Emily Kohl.
I highly recommend people visit Taylor Mountain and take the time to read the history and goals behind this amazing park.