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Firefighting Cattle: Targeted Grazing Creates Firebreaks in Cheatgrass

BOISE, IDAHO, October 2, 2020 - Cattle grazing on a nearly half mile wide targeted strip of cheatgrass near Beowawe, Nevada, created a firebreak that helped limit a range fire to just 54 acres this past August compared to rangeland fires that more commonly race across thousands of acres of the Great Basin each summer.

Targeted Grazing Cheatgrass Firebeak

Targeted grazing can create firebreaks in cheatgrass that can limit rangeland fires. Credit: Pat Clark, ARS.

This same grazed fuel break held the Boulder Creek Fire to just 1,029 acres in July 2018 and kept the fire out of sage-grouse habitat located downwind.

These “targeted grazing” firebreak and 8 others are part of an evaluation project being managed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The agency is partnering with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) and Department of the Interior agencies as well as state and local authorities and local cattle ranchers in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. The demonstration sites are being coordinated into a Multi-Regional Experiment so the targeted grazing concept’s efficacy and environmental impacts can be uniformly evaluated and compared. DOI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is funding much of the program.

“The basic idea is to use cattle grazing in the early spring to mow extensive strips of highly-flammable cheatgrass down to 2- to 3-inch stubble in strategic places to remove the fuel that can turn small rangeland fires into megafires in a matter of hours. These fuel breaks are intended to slow fire spread, make it less intense, and provide places from which firefighters can more safely attack and contain the fire,” explained ARS rangeland scientist Pat Clark with the Northwest Watershed Research Center in Boise, Idaho, who directs the targeted grazing evaluation project.

Read the full article here at the Post Register

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