Cattlemen plot strategy to fight Calif. grazing regulations

Tim Hearden/Capital Press Cattle roam on green grass at the California State University-Chico farm. The California Cattlemen's Association is making plans to fight proposed grazing regulations in the state.

SACRAMENTO — A cattle group is gearing up to fight a California water board’s plan to regulate livestock grazing near rivers and streams.

The California Cattlemen’s Association plans to meet with the State Water Resources Control Board and with other farm groups in the coming weeks and will conduct ranch tours to educate water board members in early April, according to a CCA newsletter.

The state’s largest ranchers’ organization will join other groups such as the California Farm Bureau Federation in an attempt to fight the grazing regulations, which the state could propose later this year.

“We’re very much opposed to this grazing regulatory project,” said Kirk Wilbur, the CCA’s director of government relations. “We’re not trying to mold it in any way. Our goal is to put an end to it.”

The state water board asserts its proposed Grazing Regulatory Action Project would enhance the environmental benefits from grazing while addressing its impacts on water quality. Such impacts could include sediment loading and the introduction of bacteria and nutrients to streams and wetlands as well as trampling of stream banks and vegetation that’s important for maintaining water temperature, state officials have said.

The board held public meetings in January in San Luis Obispo, Redding and Bishop to gather input about the rule after holding invitation-only listening sessions last fall with various affected group, including the livestock industry.

A formal proposal with actual language for the regulation would be followed by a public comment period and adoption in 2016, the water board’s website explains.

Cattle producers throughout the state have complained the board has presented no scientific evidence that cattle have been polluting streams, that it isn’t taking into account ranchers’ existing efforts to keep animals away from streams and that it hasn’t considered that water could also be contaminated by wildlife.

Representatives of CCA, the CFBF and the California Wool Growers Association have formed a joint advisory committee to plot strategy, and CCA officials have also met with or sent letters to various state elected officials to voice their opposition to the proposed rules, although no anti-GRAP legislation is yet in the works, Wilbur said.

The CCA points to recent studies by several University of California-Davis researchers, including Ken Tate, who noted that many of the 122 waterways listed as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act are harmed by pollutants not typically associated with grazing, such as salinity. Tate and others discussed their research at a Davis conference last week.

“It seems even more evident now that the science seems to suggest that grazing is probably not a pervasive source of impairment” of the state’s waterways, Wilbur said. “It really does not look like this is a regulation that’s necessary.”

Online

California Cattlemen’s Association: http://www.calcattlemen.org

UC-Davis’ Rustici Rangeland Science Symposium presentations: http://rangelandwatersheds.ucdavis.edu/main/symposium_RSS_2015.html

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