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Learn from the past


September 17, 2020

Let’s take this forest management conversation a bit further than simply advocating logging responsibly.

Let’s think outside the box...or, better yet, let’s think the way our grandparents and great-grandparents handled managing forest and providing a commodity–grazing beef, sheep and goats in the forests and desert areas.

I remember as a child, a shepherd grazed a flock of 2,000 head of sheep in the Blue Mountains. Raised on a wheat and cattle ranch, that was good news to us because it provided a reduction in fire incidence from lightning strikes in the mountains sparking a possible wheat, hay field or pasture fire.

I also remember my grandfather and dad–with the help of all the kids, walking our herd of cattle up Hatley Gulch to the mountain ground for summer grazing. I’m going to say the trek was at least 20 miles uphill all the way, but in reality, it was only about 10. But, to us kids, it was an all-day hike, moving cows, calves, steers and bulls to the mountain pasture.

Our forest and grassland was privately owned, and by putting the cattle in the timber, the undergrowth was grazed, minimizing fire fuel. That was one of the ways my family managed our property, because we wanted to preserve it for not only that year but years to come.

Yes, we had lightning strikes which caused fires, but there wasn’t enough fuel to keep them going, so burned itself out most of the time. Even during times of so-called drought, which was just a typical dry, hot summer for us, fires were minimal at worst and not at the scale we experience today. Today’s widespread forest fires are due to mismanagement, which helps promote the conspiracy theory of climate change.

Just because past practices are not fancy-dancy and learned out of a book, does not mean it is not valuable and mostly successful.

It would be useful for policy makers to look to the past and follow certain practices which provided a healthy forest, grasslands and desert, and not limit themselves to the new trends, which in my opinion, don’t always pan out in the long run.

As my grandmother always said, why change what is working; just leave it be and all will be well.


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