Below is a an article released by the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. It is worth a read by anyone interested in rangelands and open space and the impacts from urban development. Especially chilling for Californians!
Homes on the Range: Helping to Understand Residential Development of U.S. Rangelands
Download PDFSee ALL Science You Can Use
A Changing Landscape
Rangelands on the Edge quantifies and maps aspects of rangeland conversion, including watershed fragmentation. The darkest red color on the map represents the most fragmented rangeland watersheds.
When the words to the classic folk song “Home on the Range” were written in 1872, U.S.rangelands were much more extensive than they are today. Over the past three centuries in the coterminous United States, one-thirdofrangelands — once covering a billion acres — have been modified or converted to other land uses. This shift is projected to continue, because privatelyownedrangelands, which are the most likely to be converted to other uses, represent more than 60 percent ofAmerica'srangelands.
Residential Development and Spatial Analysis
Residential development has had a particularly significant impact on rangeland ecosystems, including wildlife habitat reduction and fragmentation, altered hydrology and water quality, and decreased availability of natural and recreational goods and services. It's a growing issue, as an additional 5.6 million acres of U.S. rangelands are expected to make way for residential development in the next two decades or so, with more than 1 million of those acres in California and Texas alone.
To better understand where and how residential development is likely to affect U.S. rangelands, a team of scientists is collaborating on an ongoing project known as Rangelands on the Edge, which estimates past and projected rangeland conversion while evaluating landscape-level rangeland threats. It's similar to another Forest Service project called Forests on the Edge, which also has the key goals of increasing awareness of ecosystem values and challenges while creating tools for strategic planning.
Where to Find the Findings
People can find a report based on this project, entitled “Rangelands on the Edge: Quantifying the Modification, Fragmentation, and Future Residential Development of U.S. Rangelands.” The lead author, a research ecologist for the Rocky Mountain Research Station named Matt Reeves, explains, “Landscape change is inevitable and there will be tradeoffs. This research provides a springboard for having discussions about what we want the future to look like.”
Much of the decline in rangeland area is due to land use changes associated with exurban development, agriculture, and grazing (Photo by Carrie MacLaren, courtesy of 1000 Friends of Oregon).
According to the spatial analysis described in the report, continued rangeland conversion will affect some areas more than others. California and Texas are likely to be most affected, followed by Florida, Arizona, and Colorado. States with less dense human populations, such as Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota, will be impacted less although localized changes may be significant. Also, further rangeland conversion is most likely around urban areas. The report also indicates that residential development impacts are reduced by concentrating housing in specific areas while setting aside and managing open spaces through conservation easements and land purchases.
- Through a project called Rangelands on the Edge, RMRS scientists and collaborators are studying past, current, and projected changes to rangelands related to residential development in the conterminous United States.
- A recently published report on the project includes maps and analysis of variables such as housing density, road and soil characteristics, topography, proximity to population centers, and land cover, use, and ownership.
- This information can help refine planning and development decisions related to residential locations, land cover, highway placement, watershed management, and minimizing the effects of rangeland fragmentation.
- While past U.S. rangeland conversion has been driven by agricultural development, especially in the Great Plains region, the greatest projected residential development is in the arid Southwest and California, especially near urban areas. Of more than 5.3 million acres of projected residential development through 2030, nearly 2.5 million acres are in California and Texas. Certain smaller urban centers such as Bozeman, Montana, will also continue to experience rapid changes.
- Scientists are available to help interpret findings on a local level. Additional information can be obtained by contacting Matt Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planning for Wildfire, Wildlife Management, and More
Reeves also describes an issue he's seen in western Montana: “Here in the Bitterroot Valley, the human population is expanding while agricultural and rangeland resources are being diminished. As a result, there's been an increase in motor vehicle collisions with elk as they're squeezed into corridors that might require them to cross a road. Our research can help develop travel management plans that consider wildlife corridors and include carefully placed overpasses, underpasses or fences.”
Reeves hopes the work will enable more informed decision-making related to U.S. rangeland development. He explains, “While there's some urgency about this issue, there's also opportunity. We believe that this research is the first step in more localized research, which will help bring people to the table.”
Reeves, Matthew C.; Krebs, Michael; Leinwand, Ian; Theobald, David M.; Mitchell, John E. 2018. Rangelands on the Edge: Quantifying the modification, fragmentation, and future residential development of U.S. rangelands. RMRS-GTR-382. Fort Collins, Colorado: USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
We have a rare opportunity for aerial seeding of rangeland as the window for planting is closing in about 30 days. After about December 15th our soil temps become too cold for good germination. Diane Curry, Interim Agricultural Commissioner, was contacted by Gibson Oster a crop duster pilot from the Fresno area. Gibson has family in Redwood Valley and he will be coming to the area to fly on seed to rangeland affected by the fire. Currently, he has been contacted by several growers and will be seeding 2400 acres. If anyone else wants to have reseeding done they should contact Gibson at 707-489-3434.
The current cost is $9/acre for 10 pounds/acre seeding rate and $10/acre for 20 pounds/acre seeding rate. If more landowners participate with more acres the price may go down. Gibson plans on being here on the Sunday after Thanksgiving which is November 26, 2017. Diane, Devon (Farm Bureau), Katie Delbar (FSA) and I are working together to get the word out not just the ranchers who have been affected by the fire, but also any rancher who would like to take advantage of the plane being in the area to get some seeding done. Diane was told that Gibson said that he would help to source seed. Feel free to share this information with anyone you think might want to be involved.
Usually the goal for a cattle, sheep or goat livestock operation is to maximize high quality forage production. Typically on the North Coast, a 50:50 mix of annual grasses and legumes are recommended and seeded at 20 to 25 lbs per acre. The grasses are usually annual ryegrass, brome and fescue. The annual legume is subterranean clover. In areas of less steep topography and good soils, Berber orchardgrass, a perennial, may be substituted for part of the grass mixture. Perennials extend the green season providing better forage and enhance carbon storage. Many, however, don't compete well with annuals and have difficulty surviving our hot dry summers. A recent paper in California Agriculture was just published on some other promising forage perennials. The study was done in the Sierra foothills and a few of those mentioned have been tested here. The link to the current issue is http://ucanr.edu/repository/fileAccessPublic.cfm?calag=fullissues/CAv071n04.pdf&url_attachment=N. The range seeding paper starts on page 239.
For those interested in using California native grasses and forbs check out the following publication at http://ucanr.edu/sites/BayAreaRangeland/files/267610.pdf. Be aware that seed sources for natives will often cost more than 10 times the typical forage species. Also some are toxic to livestock or are not great forage species.
Post fire inventories include a lot for ranchers, e.g. stock, forage, fence, buildings and equipment losses immediately come to mind. Equally important is an inventory of potential sediment sources from hill slopes, fire cut roads and riparian areas that will need mitigation to prevent soil loss and sediment movement into streams.
Rice straw as mulch, in bales for check dams and in the ubiquitous waddles all come into play for the recovery process. Sometimes the mulch is also used in reseeding sites too. The following sources of rice straw were put together by Rachel Elkins, pomology advisor and were forwarded to me by Greg Giusti, forestry and wildlands advisor - emeritus.
Paul Buttner of the California Rice Commission (https://twitter.com/PaulTheRiceGuy). His website is: http://www.ricestrawmarket.org/index.html. It is a buyer-seller website. His phone number is (916) 206-5340. His twitter page links to http://calrice.org with more contact information.
Ken Collins, a rice grower in Gridley (Butte County) is a large rice straw dealer. His phone number is (530) 682-6020.
EarthSavers makes straw wattles. They are in Woodland: http://www.earth-savers.com/.
Once you have an inventory of potential sediment sources identified, contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for technical help with mitigation and design of erosion control structures. I've included Carol Mandel's contact information below. Many of these mitigation techniques will have cost share programs to help.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
1252 Airport Park Blvd. Suite B-1
Ukiah CA 95482
Bus: (707) 468-9223
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to reimburse producers up to 75% of the market value of animals lost due to adverse weather conditions. Adverse weather conditions under LIP include wildfires. All classes of cattle are eligible for reimbursement including cows, bulls and calves. For 2017, a claim for a bull is paid out at $1,350.34, a cow at $1,038.73 and non-adult cattle (calves) from $471.22 per head to $1,001.12 per head depending on weight.
Sheep, goats and other stock including poultry are also eligible. There reimbursement rates for them are shown in tables in the document link included at the end of this post.
In order to be eligible to receive payment under LIP, a producer must notify their local county Farm Service Administration (FSA) of their intent to seek a claim within 30 days of the loss (see Katie Delbar's contact information below).
1252 Airport Park Blvd., Ste B-1
Ukiah, CA 95482
Bus: 707) 468-9225 ext. 2
A final claim must be submitted within 90 days of informing the county FSA office of the loss and the final claim must also be made within the same calendar year as the loss. Documentation will be requested by the county FSA office to verify the claim including any photographs that can be made available documenting the loss or the impact of the fire, records to prove ownership, etc.
A fact sheet about the Livestock Indemnity Program can be found here.
The attached pdf, from Katie Delbar, provides initial info on assistance for ag producers with property in the recent Mendocino & Lake fires.
I've just begun to work on a smartphone app that I hope will make it easy to assess acreage damaged by the fires, economic value of the forage losses and reseeding requirements and cost assessments. I'll keep you posted on that progress.
Below are quite a few links for UC information on fire recovery that Ken Tate put together: