A new report from the BC’s Forest Practices Board has identified opportunities to improve range management through forage measurement and allocation across the province.
“Government has developed good guidelines for measuring forage, but they aren’t consistently used,” FBP board member Gerry Grant said in releasing the report on December 5.
In addition, the province lacks an accurate inventory of forage in some districts.
“There is no province-wide inventory or even real good system for inventorying range and forage,” says Dawson Creek rancher and BC Cattlemen’s Association land stewardship committee chair Mike McConnell. “Another thing the report points out is that the government does not have accurate wildlife inventories. And of course, we’re supposed to be managing the forage out there for domestic stock and wildlife. It’s very hard to do when you don’t know how many wildlife you’re supposed to be providing feed for.”
BCCA was also happy to see the lack of legal requirements for timber companies to protect, manage, or maintain forage called out in the report. Previous reviews omitted language around ensuring sustainable supplies of timber and forage, McConnell says.
Additionally, the board found that over the long term, forestry activities within or near grazing tenures can reduce forage availability for animals.
The report also noted high staff turnover in nine of the 10 regional districts with the most Range Act agreements.
“We all sort of knew there was a huge turnover in our local staff, but I consider this a significant problem province-wide given that we don’t have a real good provincial forage inventory system and then you overlap that with high turnover of young and relatively unexperienced staff who are trying to deal with an annual crop,” McConnell says. “When you have a revolving door of young staff, it’s hard [if] they don’t have the background.”
Each range staff member in the 10 districts are responsible for 1.3 million hectares. Most of the ministry’s range monitoring relies on visual approximations for forage use and availability and few have written procedures for how their district measures forage, the report notes.
Overall, BCCA was pleased with and supports the board’s report as it highlights issues ranchers have underlined for a number of years.
“We were happy with the report,” McConnell says. “It was accurate and pointed out a number of these issues that we’ve been talking about for a while.”