The case for ruminants
Updated: Jun 26
And why we already have everything we need to create vibrant communities.
Communities today are slowly starting to remember the intelligence of including animals in landscape management strategies. It wasn't long ago that sheep graced the White House lawn to keep the turf looking nice and the soil healthy. Many communities now are bringing back this age old tool. Neighborhoods in Sonoma County are learning how to share small herds to protect their property from fire and the City of Petaluma is embarking on a program to use grazing goats in all of their open spaces starting in August 2023.
Grazing expert Sarah Keiser (Wild Oat Hollow and the Community Grazing Cooperative) has been teaching municipalities and communities about how to effectively use animals for fire fuel load reduction and ecosystem restoration. Grazing animals can even be used to change the seed bank of an area within a very short amount of time to keep the plants we want and eliminate the plants we don't (invasive plants, for example.)
Keiser recently spoke at a press conference in Sacramento on the benefits of using animals for roadside vegetation management:
"One of the main reasons that Caltrans is using pesticides as a tool is because they believe it is a tool for vegetation management for fire fuel load reduction. We're learning that is a very ineffective strategy for vegetation management. All you leave is dry vegetation material on the side of the road which creates a very high combustion area for starting a wildfire. There are so many other tools we can use that are much more effective. One of the tools that I think is a great tool for roadsides is the use of grazing. Grazing animals are the one tool that actually do not leave dry vegetation matter on the ground, they consume it, they leave manure and urine which is actually hydrating and it stops wild fire. When Calfire is seting up zones to stop wildfire, they're setting up zones that have been grazed because its one of the places they can get, they can stop the fire, and they can make a big difference. "
"We need to think about our vegetation management and the tools we use to create long term goals for healthy ecosystems. We have begin to to go beyond thinking of one treatment [pesticides] that will do all the work. We need to think about whole system approaches. Caltrans has the opportunity to do that and do that better to create healthy ecosystems that are better for people, the animals, the roadsides, for wildfire, and the environment. "
We already have all of the tools, people power, and vision we need to create healthier and more vibrant communities where humans live in true harmony as true members of the natural world. If you doubt this, read a little bit from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring published over 60 years ago and you'll realize the potential that has been quietly lying in wait for us to wake up to when we're ready. Now is the time for the leaders of our society to take the leap of faith necessary to put this potential into action.