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
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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 email@example.com.
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.
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:
Announcement reprinted from California Wool Growers' Association newsletter. I was part of the team and it reflects input from Mendocino and Lake County ranchers as well as the rest of the state.
California has experienced five large-scale, multiyear droughts since 1960; however, the current event is considered the state's most severe drought in at least 500 years. Each year of the current drought has presented different challenges; for example, much of California received no measurable precipitation December 2013 through late January 2014. In the following year, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was just 5% of normal. As California ranching is largely dependent on rain-fed systems, as opposed to groundwater or stored water, it is very vulnerable to drought. In fact, rangeland livestock ranchers were among the first affected by the abnormally warm, dry winters at the beginning of the current multiyear drought.
In this article, we highlight lessons learned so far from past droughts, as well as California's unprecedented and ongoing multiyear drought. We draw on ranchers' perspectives and experiences, including research results from a statewide mail survey of 507 ranchers and semistructured interviews of 102 ranchers, as well as our own experiences. The mail survey (the California Rangeland Decision-Making Survey) included questions on operator and operation demographics, goals and practices, information resources, and rancher perspectives. Semistructured interviews are part of a larger ongoing project (the California Ranch Stewardship Project) examining rangeland management for multiple ecosystem services.
The publication is available at the following link - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019005281630027X