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Cattle to join B.C. wildfire fight
The province is investing in four-legged firefighters to help reduce the wildfire risk.
The B.C. government announced on Saturday it is providing $500,000 to the BC Cattlemen's Association to develop an initiative that will use grazing livestock to manage fine fuels in parts of the province.
The Minister of Forests says the livestock grazing will help minimize the growth of annual and perennial grasses, which would reduce the wildfire risks.
"It’s one example of what we’re doing to reduce the threat of wildfires, while supporting the ranching sector and maintaining wildlife habitat in our province," Minister Doug Donaldson said in a press release.
While it's a novel idea in B.C., officials say it has been done in southern Europe and parts of the U.S., and it's been effective.
Kevin Boon with the BC Cattlemen's Association says cattle grazing is valuable in reducing the start or spread of wildfires.
"Cattle grazing reduces the fine fuels available for fires to take hold. This funding will allow us to develop partnerships in interface areas to help protect our lands, forests and communities, while producing some of the best quality food in the world," he said.
Officials say livestock grazing is not the only solution to managing fuel challenges, but it is a "powerful tool" when it is used along with other methods, such as prescribed burning and selective tree harvesting.
The province will be working with other local governments, the ranching sector and Indigenous communities to develop opportunities for livestock owners and other stakeholders.
"It’s an intriguing model that I’m hopeful will become a mainstay in our efforts to protect our communities and resources from fires, as well as supporting B.C. ranchers and B.C. beef," said Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham.
The wildfire season in 2018 was considered the single worst in the province's history, according to government statistics. In 2017, the season was considered the second worst. Together, more than 25,000 square kilometres of land was burned.