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Farm groups say new wildlife plan should recognize grazing’s benefits

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

Farm groups in California are concerned that a newly updated state wildlife management plan will continue to list grazing as a threat to habitat. They say science has shown in recent years that proper grazing activities are beneficial.

SACRAMENTO — Farm groups want to change the language in a state plan for protecting wildlife that lists grazing as a potential threat to habitat.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is holding meetings throughout California to update its State Wildlife Action Plan, which was last written in 2005.

Required for obtaining federal funding to the department, the guidance document sets goals for the overall improvement of the state’s species and habitats.

However, the California Cattlemen’s Association and other groups say the plan includes a “myopic view” of grazing and doesn’t distinguish between good and bad practices.

“They do say that in certain instances, grazing is beneficial to wildlife habitat, but conversely they say that grazing is a threat to all these species and their habitat,” said Margo Parks, the CCA’s legislative director.

“It’s really important to us because we always support best management practices,” she said. “The claim they make about grazing being a threat, you could say the same thing about any practice. Name anything, and if you do it poorly it will have negative consequences.”

The CCA and other groups are targeting language in a 15-page scoping document that outlines the goals of the plan, which officials aim to finalize by 2015. Parks said the state should acknowledge scientific research on the benefits of grazing that has been done since the last action plan was written.

Calls to Armand Gonzales, a special adviser on the action plan, and Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Carol Singleton were not returned. In a news release, state officials said the new plan will analyze threats and stresses to habitat by region, consider potential climate change impacts and recommend conservation actions.

Among other concerned groups is the California Farm Bureau Federation, which asserts the plan’s update could have far-reaching implications for the state’s agriculture. The CFBF argues the plan needs to recognize the habitat values agriculture provides, including the value of grazing.

There are about 40 million acres of grazing land in California, nearly 40 percent of the state’s total land mass, and most of it is privately owned, the state Farm Bureau notes.

The state scheduled 11 public meetings on the wildlife plan for October and early November, and have already held meetings in West Sacramento, Long Beach, San Diego and Palm Desert. Another meeting was set for Oct. 24 in Fresno. Both the CFBF and CCA have been encouraging members to attend.

“I think there’s certainly room for improvement in what we’ve seen so far,” Parks said. “If the department relies on science related to the topic of grazing, it could create a document that accurately reflects grazing as it is related to habitat.”

Upcoming meetings

Here are some of the upcoming State Wildlife Action Plan scoping meetings. For the complete list, visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=72636&;inline=1 . All of the listed meetings are from 6 to 9 p.m.

Oct. 28: Tri-County Fairgrounds’ Tallman Pavilion, Sierra Street and Fair Drive, Bishop, Calif.

Nov. 5: San Leandro Library’s Karp Room, 300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro, Calif.

Nov. 6: Laguna Environmental Center’s Heron Hall, 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Nov. 12: Turtle Bay Exploration Park classroom, 840 Sundial Bridge Drive, Redding, Calif.

Nov. 13: Wharfinger Building, Great Room, 1 Marina Way, Eureka, Calif.



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