As the instructor for the Santa Rosa Junior College Range Class, I give students an education about using livestock grazing as a tool in Sonoma County to manage resources; especially in our regional and state parks. I took my class to Point Reyes National Seashore to experience rangelands and the use of grazing. The following blog post was written by student Nicko Wilde.
While much attention is currently being focused on the impacts of the elk sharing land with cattle, the views on this dynamic, mixed in opinion and criticism as they are, still do not focus primarily on a more general concern of overgrazing via poor practices, which ought to retain more attention. The impacts of irresponsible grazing include some of the following: reduced nesting sits for birds & wildlife, nest trampling, reduced cover, reduced floral biodiversity, and attractiveness to predators, parasites, and diseases.
Those who argue that no cattle should graze in point Reyes due to its ecological and protected status, should similarly step back and consider grazing done well can promote the following: watering sources for cattle can also provide water for wildlife, more public input and interest in water district activity, a transition from economically viable ranches based on meat production solely, to ranching done with land restoration productive capacity goals, and therefore a renewed focus on managing for plants with a higher forage value, managing for ornamentals, erosion control, etc.
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.
Rangelands are important for many different reasons, there is a vast variety of products produced from the production of rangelands. Not only are rangelands used for production, but they are also used as a great outdoor recreation service for society.
In addition not only do mountainous rangelands provide the means for me to be able to snowboard and in turn create feelings of excitement and adrenaline, but I also generate feelings of appreciation, relaxation, and exuberance due to the appreciation I feel when I get to admire the true beauty of mountainous rangelands. In addition the different topography of mountain rangelands creates different types of mountain slopes which very in steepness and length, the different variations of mountain slopes are what snowboarders use to challenge themselves.
In conclusion the amazing challenging sport of snowboarding would not be possible without mountainous rangelands!
This blog was written by Sean Ellyson, student at Santa Rosa Junior College in the Range Management class which is taught by Dr Stephanie Larson, Livestock and Range Management Advisor for Sonoma & Marin counties.
- Author: Karen Giovannini
Stephanie is the Livestock & Range Management Advisor for Sonoma and Marin Counties, where she conducts education and research to integrate dairy and livestock production with rangeland management and helps local producers to improve production and marketing. She is also the Director of the UCCE Sonoma County office. Read her bio here.