I spent more hours wildlife fencing this spring than I have in years. It goes without saying that there is always an adversarial cloud hanging over every project that defies the long standing tradition of wildlife losing every fight on the grassland ecosystem in our province.
My Highway #3 wildlife fencing crew volunteered 90 hours replacing old sections of the 11 1/2 KM wildlife fence construction started in 1985. The current director of wildlife, Dan Petersen hacked me big time on the future of the wildlife fence so he must know a lot more about politics than I do. Remember our Socred MLA, Jim Hewitt convinced his Minister of Environment colleague, Tony Brummett to support the Gilpin Bighorn Sheep proposal October, 1984 because I convinced Jim the bighorns would not create a problem for the driving public on Highway #3.
A small group of us spent 185 hours building a wildlife friendly fence to exclude cows from approximately 6 acres of Nature Trust property. Al Grant from Rock Creek made a substantial time and money commitment to the project. Al spent 51 hours on his tractor digging fence post holes and another 13 hours stapling wire to the posts. He also donated seven roles of barbed wire. Amazing when you consider conservation to-day is all about money raised by surcharges on species hunting tags and with few exceptions; all workers are paid a good wage.
Initially the project objective was to exclude cows from a spring adjacent to the Overton Creek Road but after two field trips with Nature Trust employee, Nick Burdock the perimeter agreed upon was much larger than initially planned.
When you travel a road as often as we did you become aware of how much damage the cow does to the land in a short period of time. The enclosure will quickly give us a bench mark to compare the damage the cows does to riparian areas and important wildlife shrubs such as blue elderberry, Saskatoon and chokecherry, all of which are highly desirable by the cow.
If you take the time to check out www.boundaryalliance.org you can get the skinny on the Nature Trust properties in Grand Forks.
Remember I have been steadfast in stating that good government will support ranching but good government will honor its statutory responsibility and mandate a much higher level of management of the cow on all our province’s sensitive important environments.
If you accompany me on a time and site specific field trip on the Nature Trust properties and the Gilpin Grassland Class A Park you will quickly agree the damage done by the cow is unacceptable.
Mike Pearson’s presentation April 9th at the Grand Fork’s Senior Center showcasing the sorry state of the management of fish bearing streams in the Fraser Valley is on our web page; http://www.wildlifeheritageforever.com . If you take the time to watch the presentation you will agree Mike did an excellent job of making the case that riparian area management of fish bearing streams in the Fraser Valley is unacceptable.
His presentation included 3 pictures of the Lost Lake Marsh and 1 picture of a spring and a cow immediately adjacent on Nature Trust property that is now within the fencing enclosure just constructed.
In my world the dots all connect and when you have a contractor like Mike Pearson who is not afraid to make a call you have someone special. I found it interesting but not surprising when he mentioned Don Gayton’s name. Don Gayton’s “Review of the Gilpin Grasslands” March, 2003 is a central part of any intelligent discussion of the Gilpin Grassland Class A Provincial Park. His conclusions and recommendations in his report are a must read for anyone concerned about the province’s grassland ecosystem. Remember wildlife loses every fight with the cow.
The surface water management file that I bring to your attention does beg the question how is it possible in this time of our province’s history that British Columbians are forced to embrace such a pathetic standard of water management when the water resource is rapidly escalating in importance?
Vancouver Sun outdoor writer, Larry Pynn wrote an interesting article that appeared in the paper June 5th highly critical of the Seabird Island Band who in partnership with Jake’s Construction received senior government’s permission to extract about 100,000 cubic meters of gravel from a stretch of river that environmentalists and fish experts warned would destroy known spawning habitat of endangered white sturgeon.
The comments from a former provincial biologist carry a powerful message, “I don’t know of any time in my 35 year career as a fisheries biologist that a more absurd impact to the environment occurred than this project” said Marvin Rosenau, who now teaches in BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program.
“What was astonishing was that outside of a small group of individuals, nobody gave a rat’s ass”.
“I think we need to go back and examine the strategy in respect to how to influence decisions that are made in the 21st Century in BC. As scientists, outdoors people and advocates for a level of sustainability of the environment, common sense and good thought, and being polite, simply no longer cuts it”.
I recently had occasion to speak to retired agrologist, Werner Baliko. We have been extremely critical of each other but after a 10 minute discussion I reminded him that our values were similar and we shook hands.
At issue was the fact that Werner agreed with me that range management is an oxy moran, in other words a contradiction because there is no way you can control the invasive weed problem because you cannot control the erosion caused by the cow and riparian area management does not exist and never will in any meaningful way.
The province’s first range handbook titled Range Management Handbook for British Columbia in which Dr. Allistair McLean is the final signatory contains a few gems that illustrate the dramatic decline in range management ethics to-day.
On page 82 of Range Management the following quote describes a major problem especially in a drought when cows don’t move far from water; “Untended cattle settle in one area and graze there indefinitely. This continual use leads to abuse of forage and can lower cattle condition”. Two of the most egregious examples of water management on the Gilpin grasslands are in Morrissey Creek watershed; Nature Trust’s 301 acres and the eastern tributary adjacent to an overgrazed meadow, the site of a controlled burn a few years ago. I will send a few pictures that tell the story.
The suggested solution-“Good range riding will repay its cost.”
The following objectives set by government for water from the Range Planning and Practices Regulation have no connection to reality.
The objectives set by government for water are as follows:
- Maintain or improve water resources.
- Maintain or promote healthy riparian and upland areas.
- Maintain or promote riparian vegetation that provides sufficient shade to maintain stream temperature within the natural range or variability.
- Maintain or promote desired riparian plant communities.
The political reality that I have brought to your attention is that the former director of the BC Cattlemen’s Association, David Borth was hired in 2005 to oversee the province’s range bureaucracy and as a consequence ranchers literally own the province’s grassland ecosystem- there is no mix and match, no give and take-they take it all.
Contrary to the attitude of politicians and ranchers to-day Dr. Alistair McLean and his 25 colleagues who together drafted the 1979 Range Management Hand Book made the case they had an ethical and moral compass when they offered the following advice on page 5 to resolve conflict with wildlife.
“Grazing by domestic stock and wild ungulates is not always compatible but conflicts can be reduced or eliminated by good range management. For example individual range areas that are critical for the survival of game are seldom large. Wildlife should therefore be given preference over most other users on such areas because grazing habitats of game animals cannot easily be changed”.
“The importance of wildlife in the province is difficult to assess since it must be measured not only in direct economic terms but also in the well being of the citizens through recreation and quiet enjoyment”.
Jim White, a former provincial agrologist who was one of the 25 knowledgeable sources of information that created the 1979 Range Management Hand Book and who also has a strong connection to former NDP Minister of Forests, David Zirnfelt; and the Grassland Conservation Council of BC wrote a paper titled; Cattle-Wildlife Interactions (no date)
His advice to resolve the deer/cow conflict is one of the major arguments why the management of the Class A Provincial Gilpin Grassland Park is not acceptable.
“If cattle are allowed to concentrate for any length of time in the fall in areas that are critical for deer winter use, the stage is set for severe conflict. They may browse off (excuse me, they do) significant amounts of Saskatoon, willow, current, snowbush, red osier, dogwood and rose—species important for deer winter use.
There is the problem, now what is the solution? The first and obvious one is simply not allow fall cattle use of deer winter range. This is done wherever possible.”
Remember the Socred Government August, 1972 paid $190,000 for the 1470 acre Boothman Ranch and the multi agency bureaucracy agreed October 20, 1972 that wildlife would be the major management objective on the Gilpin Grasslands!!!!!
The definition of government corruption I stand by says it all- The perversion or destruction of integrity during the discharge of public duties for profit or favor.
Barry Brandow Sr.
Grand Forks, BC