SACRAMENTO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–How can well-managed rangelands mitigate the effects of California’s devastating wildfires? A new film by California Rangeland Trust shares how livestock grazing and working lands conservation and management can be important tools for fire prevention. Just in time for Wildfire Preparedness Day, May 7, From the Ground Up: Healing our Planet, Healing Ourselves features a UC Berkeley scientist who led a recent study on the value of protecting California’s rangelands for the environment, economy and quality of life of the state.
“Cattle grazing removes some 12 billion pounds of dry biomass every year in California,” said Dr. Lynn Huntsinger, Professor of Rangeland Science at UC Berkeley, and the author of the study. “It’s the biggest (fire) fuel treatment we have in California, and that provides an incredibly valuable service to the state.”
Huntsinger conducted an Ecosystem Services Study to measure the return on investment of conserved rangeland in California. Scientists found that approximately 306,000 acres of rangeland conserved by California Rangeland Trust provide $1.44 billion in environmental benefits annually, including healthy plant and animal habitat, watersheds, and climate change regulation.
“Well-maintained working lands are critical not only to mitigate the effects of wildfires but also to provide clean air and water, healthy food and ecosystems and beautiful viewsheds we need for quality of life,” said Michael Delbar, California Rangeland Trust CEO. Delbar is featured in the film following a devastating wildfire on his family’s property. “California’s rangelands are so resilient. They can heal our planet and us as people.”
In 2021, more than 8,800 fires burned 2.5 million acres across California, according to CAL FIRE. Studies show livestock grazing can lower wildfire risk and reduce the impact of fires by decreasing dry fuel such as grass and brush to slow spreading flames. Managed grazing often makes land healthier by bringing the land back to its native state, boosting plant and animal life and cultivating healthy soils.
California Rangeland Trust conserves rangelands through conservation easements, legal agreements that ensure working land remains undeveloped. “Conservation easements are incredibly effective for keeping private land open and well maintained for the purposes of fire and climate change regulation. The problem is the land is being developed far faster than it’s being conserved,” said Huntsinger.
According to a recent study by the American Farmland Trust, 280,000 acres of California rangeland and pastureland were lost to development between 2001 and 2016. By contrast, private rangeland accounts for 62 percent of California’s open, undeveloped land. That land provides habitat for 67 percent of the state’s threatened or endangered species. In addition, over 85 percent of California’s fresh water runs over ranches.
Founded in 1998 by a group of ranchers determined to safeguard rangeland agriculture and the natural ecosystems they steward, California Rangeland Trust is the only rancher-led land trust in California. Over the last 24 years, the organization has permanently protected more than 365,000 acres of open rangeland to provide clean air and water, carbon sequestration, vibrant habitat for wildlife and healthy foods that all Californians rely upon. California Rangeland Trust is a 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in Sacramento, Calif. dedicated to serving the land, people, and wildlife by conserving California’s working ranches.
***View From the Ground Up here.***
For more information, visit rangelandtrust.org.