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Grazing cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire fuels in the Okanagan

Click to play video 'Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan' Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan
Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan – Oct 28, 2020

A wildfire mitigation project is on its way to the Okanagan.

With this one, however, the workers are not your typical wildfire prevention officers.

“(This) is one of the potential sites to bring cattle in to deal with the grass issue,” said Mike Pritchard, B.C. Cattlemen’s Association’s wildfire prevention coordinator.

“The cattle will be used to protect homeowners and homes in this neighbourhood.”

Read more: BC Wildfire forecasting smoke from upcoming plans to burn wood piles near Naramata

A grassland area in North Kelowna, from which trees were removed a few years ago, will be one of the test sites for the association’s wildfire mitigation project. 

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“The issue is once you remove the conifers you let more light in,” explained Pritchard.

“You allow more water to be able for the other plants and if you look behind us here, this is what grows. It’s the grass.”

Essentially, the cattle will be used as lawn mowers, grazing in grassland areas next to residential homes, eating potential wildfire fuel.

Read more: More than 300 B.C. firefighters in Oregon, California helping battle wildfires

Keith Manders, a Summerland cattle rancher, says his cows will be among those participating in the project.

“For me it’s probably more work, but it’s the right thing to do,” Manders told Global News on Wednesday.

Manders says his experience with the Mount Eneas Wildfire in 2018 showed him the project will do its job.

“The ecologists that were working for the (BC Cattlemen’s Association) this summer when we were doing our baseline studies, they showed us the witness marks in the ground where the fire stopped,” said Manders.

“Where it was grazed more, the fire slowed down or went out. I definitely think it will help, no doubt in my mind it will work.”

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Read more: Coronavirus: 16 B.C. firefighters test positive for COVID-19 following deployment to California

The cattle will be enclosed with electric fencing to focus their grazing on specific areas.

Pritchard says three sites will be used for testing next summer in North Kelowna, Summerland and Peachland.

The targeted grazing initiative is sponsored by the Ministry of Forests in B.C. and Agriculture.

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