- Author: Dan Macon
With wildfire season in full swing in California and elsewhere in the West, many ranchers are increasingly concerned about the safety and well-being of their livestock. Many - if not most - commercial-scale producers in the Sierra foothills and higher elevations operate on multiple parcels with multiple landowners. Accessing livestock in an area under evacuation orders due to wildfire - or any other large-scale disaster, for that matter - can be problematic. Commercial-scale operations typically have more animals than can be evacuated in a single load, making sheltering-in-place the only viable option. But livestock that are sheltered-in-place need care - water, feed, medical attention, etc. - making access for ranchers critical.
Over the last 6 months, I've been working with a committee of ranchers from Placer, Nevada, and Yuba Counties, along with the Agricultural Commissioners from each county, to create a Disaster Livestock Access Pass Program. The geographic focus of this effort mirrors CalFire's administrative region - and reflects the on-the-ground reality that many ranching operations cross county boundaries. We've patterned our local program on similar efforts in Butte, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. We hope to develop a similar program for Sutter County in the coming months.
For the purposes of this program, a commercial livestock operator is defined as an owner of livestock consisting of 50 head of livestock (including in utero, e.g., 25 bred cows), 100 poultry or rabbits, or 50 beehives or more that reside in Placer, Nevada, or Yuba County for at least a portion of the year, or a person who, through an agreement with that owner of livestock, has authority and is responsible to oversee the care and well-being of the owner's livestock.
To receive a Livestock Access Pass, qualified producers must complete an application survey and attend a 4-hour training session which will include information on fire behavior, the incident command system, and ranch-scale fire preparations. We will be holding training sessions in Auburn, Browns Valley, and Nevada City.