LandSmart Grazing for Community Resilience
The LandSmart Grazing program is designed to support interested neighbors or community groups to utilize grazing as a way of reducing fuel load and making their communities safer in the face of wildfires. This project also aims to serve previously burned properties in order to remove invasive weeds and reduce fuel load in preparation for future post-fire recovery activities.
Community resilience to wildfire requires an intentional shift toward community adaptation given the inevitability of wildfires, insufficient resources, and need to protect the environment. There are varied efforts underway in Sonoma County for fuels reduction through vegetation treatment prescriptions that focus on reducing fire hazard, improving defensible space, and increasing forest resilience. Targeted grazing or prescribed herbivory is also used for vegetation management and is beneficial for air quality, noise, proximity to structures, steep slopes, and areas with noxious weeds. Grazing can also be the most financially accessible and easiest to implement due to lack of permit requirements compared to other fuel treatments such as hand crews, mowing, masticating or prescribed burns.
Grazing is also the more carbon beneficial choice for fuel reduction in areas where prescribed burns are inadvisable or in sensitive ecological areas where the application of herbicides is not appropriate. Grazing reduces flame length and fire intensity and can therefore shift grasses from a highly flammable and effective fire spreader into a natural fire barrier. Recent studies indicate that the public is more likely to support targeted grazing programs if they understand the practice and have experience with and trust in those managing the livestock. Frequent and effective communication is therefore necessary, especially with segments of the public that may have less knowledge of or exposure to livestock management. Targeted grazing activities often demand significant human and physical resources, including professional livestock managers, project planners, private landowners, public land managers, communications experts, and sufficient equipment for site preparation and contingencies.
Through Phase I funding from the Vegetation Management Grant Program from Sonoma County Ag + Open Space, Gold Ridge and Sonoma RCDs connected contract grazers to landowners with the help of the UC Cooperative Extension's Match.Graze program in the hopes of facilitating a smooth and effective reduction of fire-fuels. We encouraged landowners and land managers with 4-100 acres of grasslands or woodlands to apply for this subsidized opportunity. The majority of our funds were prioritized towards areas of high fire risk where there is a close proximity to at-risk, densely populated, or underserved communities. During Phase I of this funding the RCDs provided funding on 6 projects, grazing over 90+ acres. After completing the project, the landowners we worked with stated that they were likely to recommend this program, that this program allowed them to increase their allotted acreage that fit their budget, and that this program was a great way of ‘addressing a simple need that will benefit everyone in the area.
Exciting update! Due to the overwhelming interest we received during the first round of funding, the RCDs applied for additional funding through the same Vegetation Management Grant Program, and WE RECEIVED FUNDING! Now we are planning for our next round of applications. Applications for this round will be open on Friday, September 23, 2022 and will close on Friday, October 21, 2022.
Is the LandSmart Grazing program the right tool for your property?
Livestock turns potentially dangerous fuels, grass and brush into soil-amending manure. Grazing mimics low-intensity fire behavior – it eliminates flash fuels and ladder fuels, and revitalizes spaces left untouched by fire or grazing for a generation. Unlike mowing, masticating, or chipping does not leave vegetative fuels on the ground but rather manure. A drive down any Sonoma County road reveals the presence of gray mats of uncleared grass. These mats rot and release methane while disturbing slopes as they gather mass and contribute to landslides and erosion. They stand in stark contrast to the vibrant healthy slopes, which have experienced fire or grazing and are now growing back vigorously to sequester more carbon and start the process again. When livestock are grazing in the dry season, nonnative species have a much more difficult time contending with native species that have adapted to our dry summers and have deeper roots and lower water needs. Grazing is more economical, easier for maintenance and better for the environment on smaller plots than manual clearing. Grazing animals do need informed husbandry but they multiply without cost, can be loaned or shared and for those interested in consuming the animals they graze, there’s also the added benefit of improving local food security.
Am I Eligible to Participate?
Eligible Contract Grazers include companies that perform contract grazing services within Sonoma County
Eligible land participants include, but are not limited to, managers of properties:
- - 4-20 acres for single properties, or 4-100+ contiguous acres for multiple properties
- - Grassland, woodland, shrubland, agricultural lands (orchards, vineyards, etc.)
- - At high risk of wildfire
- - In close proximity to at-risk, disadvantaged or densely populated communities
- - Adjacent to key community evacuation routes or key infrastructure
- - In an urban area or between urban and open space land
Program services include:
For Land Participants
- If approved, get matched with a professional contract grazer and RCD technical assistant
- Establish vegetation management goals
- Prepare and graze the site
- Financial assistance to use contract grazers such as sheep or goats on your property.
- Transportation of livestock to and from site
For Contract Grazers
- Matching with appropriate land participant applicants
- Contract directly with RCD for ease of working with multiple groups and fast payment
- Small grants to acquire infrastructure needs to expand/improve services such as electric fencing, mobile corals, or portable livestock water trailers
Payment Rates for Land Participants
Due to the high number of applicants last year, and our program's mission to provide assistance to as many as we can, we have established a cap on financial assistance. We will provide financial assistance with the following thresholds: We will reimburse you up to 85% of contract grazing fees or up to $20,000 per applicant. There is an opportunity to request 100% of costs if needed. We hope to work with you within these limitations.
This program is structured as a rebate program. Applicants will contract with a grazer for services and will be reimbursed by the RCD.
How Do I Apply?
1. Land Participants - Please fill out a Land Participant Application Form. The program will open for applications on Friday, September 23, 2022. The application period will close on Friday, October 21, 2022. Click here for the Land Participant Application Form.
We are hosting an informational session for Land Participants on Thursday, October 6, 2022, at 12:00pm. Link to the Zoom Meeting is here. (Meeting ID: 845 9568 1685 and Passcode: 935891) At the session, we will explain how the program works, demonstrate how to fill out the application, and share information about how to find a grazer. We will also have time for questions from the audience. This information session will be recorded and the video will be posted on our YouTube channel. We will also provide a link to the recording on our website for later viewing if you can not attend. Link to our Youtube Channel is here.
2. Contract Grazers- Please fill out a Grazing Application Form. Applications will be accepted from Friday, September 23 - Friday, October 21, 2022. The request for qualifications is now open. Click here for the Grazing Application Form.
Haz clic aquí para leer esta información en Español. Haz clic aquí para obtener la aplicacion en Español.
Gold Ridge RCD