BC Grasslands Fall 2003

Grasslands BC “ The voice for grasslands in British Columbia” SEPTEMBER 2003 MAGAZINE OF THE GRASSLANDS CONSERVATION COUNCIL OF BRITISH COLUMBIA Range Management and BC’s Ranching Legacy: Past, Current and Future Challenges Profile of Grassland Aficionados: John and Joyce Holmes



Transcript of BC Grasslands Fall 2003

Page 1: BC Grasslands Fall 2003


“The voice for grasslands in British Columbia” SEPTEMBER 2003


Range Management and BC’s Ranching Legacy: Past, Current and Future Challenges

Profile of Grassland Aficionados: John and Joyce Holmes

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I probably spend too much time read-ing. It’s not that there’s a shortage ofother things to do. But one benefit isfinding amusing turns of phrase. Whenauthor Kurt Vonnegut was asked howeffective he and other writers had beenin making a difference during the

Vietnam war he said: “Our focus was like a laser beam ongovernment…but the power of this weapon turned out tobe that of a custard pie dropped from a six foot step lad-der.” This little essay is about organizational effectiveness. Ifor one am not interested in the custard pie model.

There’s cynicism out there regarding the usefulness ofmany organizations and it’s not all directed at government.Non government organizations like the GCC and consult-ants get their share. Everybody needs a critic and I thinkwe should take it at that. It’s a reminder of the need toensure our actions generate useful end products. It’s notthat easy to do, even with the best of intentions.

As a neophyte rancher I became involved in land usepolitics some twenty-five years ago. Coordinated resourcemanagement planning was still living and breathing thenand the future looked exciting. It took awhile but I woke up

one day and realized that the effectiveness of the organiza-tions I was working with and the synergy with importantpartner organizations was abysmal. Most meetings were awaste of time and goals were distant dreams. What to do?

I discovered there was an entire field of knowledgecalled professional and organizational development. I tookworkshops and seminars on listening skills, consensusbuilding and communication. My bookshelves started toswell with the writing of various gurus in the field. Armedwith new insights, I was going to avoid wasting my timeand generate some needed outcomes. The results were lessthan brilliant. Inertia is a marvellous thing. Thus endedEffectiveness 101. Producing cattle was a breeze by com-parison.

Organizations that function with a high degree of effec-tiveness are a rarity, it seems to me. But I’m still an opti-mist and believe that such an animal can exist. I want theGrassland Conservation Council to be such an organiza-tion. We have had a very successful run up to becoming acredible organization. Next we must move through theimplementation threshold of our strategic plan and intothe zone of higher risk. We will be moving into a hotter,fiery realm and we mustn’t mind the sparks.

The Grasslands ConservationCouncil of British Columbia

Established as a society in August1999 and subsequently as a regis-tered charity on December 21,2001, the Grasslands Conserva-tion Council of British Columbia(GCC) is a strategic alliance oforganizations and individuals,including government, rangemanagement specialists, ranch-ers, agrologists, grassland ecolo-gists, First Nations, environmentalgroups, recreationists and grass-land enthusiasts. This diversegroup shares a common commit-ment to education, conservationand stewardship of BritishColumbia’s grasslands.

The GCC Mission is to:

• Foster greater understanding andappreciation for the ecological,social, economic and culturalimportance of grasslandsthroughout BC;

• Promote stewardship and sustain-able management practices thatwill ensure the long-term healthof BC’s grasslands;

• Promote the conservation of rep-resentative grassland ecosystems,species at risk and their habitats.

GCC Board of Directors


Maurice Hansen, KimberleyCHAIR

Kristi Iverson, Lac la HachePAST CHAIR

Ordell Steen, Williams LakeVICE CHAIR

Bob Scheer, KamloopsSECRETARY

Judy Guichon, QuilchenaTREASURER

Ian Barnett, KamloopsWendy Gardner, KamloopsCindy Haddow, VictoriaDennis Lloyd, KamloopsJim White, Knutsford


Leanne Colombo, CranbrookMike Duffy, 108-Mile RanchKatherine Gizikoff, MerrittBob Peart, SidneyDarrell Smith, InvermereGreg Tegart, ColdstreamGary Tipper, KimberleyBill Turner, VictoriaNichola Walkden, VictoriaDave Zehnder, Invermere


Bruno Delesalle, Kamloops


Message from the ChairMaurice Hansen

Farewell but not Goodbye

I have a confession to make. There was atime in the not-so-distant past when Istruggled with the concept of ranching,and, well, cows in general. Sure, sure, Iate beef, wore leather and was generallyhypocritical in my thinking. It just

seemed like it required vast tracts of land to support aranch and that this didn’t employ a lot of people. Plus I wasoffended by the places in the grasslands that had been over-used, or even abused, by cattle.

And then one day as I was walking in the grasslands andthinking about food (I think about food a lot), food produc-tion in particular, it struck me that nearly all of our foodcomes from lands so modified that they no longer functionas ‘natural’ or ‘intact’ areas; it would be difficult to restorethem to something close to a natural ecosystem. Except, ofcourse, grasslands and other rangelands. Ranching is one ofthe only ways that our society produces food in intactecosystems. Ranchers are conservationists in the true senseof the word—their bread, butter and beef is entirely relianton an environmentally sustainable operation. If our privategrasslands don’t continue as ranches, it seems assured that

they will be something that is not sustainable and willresult in degradation or loss of our dwindling supply ofgrasslands. As members of the GCC, we need to continue tosupport ranching and find new ways to ensure sustainableranching continues.

In BC, most ranches are cow-calf operations and thecalves are sold to be raised on feedlots, so only part of thebeef equation comes from rangelands. To me it seems thatthere is great potential for a niche-market of rangelandraised beef, preferably organic—a product that coulddemand higher prices and might have a more stable andgrowing market. It may be a naïve thought, given my limit-ed knowledge of ranching, but perhaps not. I only knowthat I wish I could buy some BC rangeland raised organicbeef.

In my past year as your chair, my own personal growthhas been one of furthering my understanding of ranchingand ranchers. I have a long way to go, but I’ve started on thepath, and I’m sure this issue of our magazine will help metravel further. The GCC is an exceptional group of people,and it has been a real pleasure to serve as your chair, and Ilook forward to a future of working with the GCC in differ-ent capacities.

Message from the Past ChairKristi Iverson

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Meeting the Challenge

It has been a difficult summer for the ranching industry: BSE, closedborders to Canadian beef, drought on the range, grasshopper infesta-tions, fire storms, and no water for livestock. Sobering times for theranching industry…but I have no doubt that ranchers will persevere.They have in the past.

During these difficult times, conservation organizations such as theGCC must be sensitive to the challenges facing the cattle industry. With my optimistic viewon life, I often see these challenges as important opportunities where we need to focus oncommon ground, on building partnerships and ensuring mutual benefits to our programs.

The GCC has recently completed a strategic plan that clearly articulates our vision forprograms and activities for 2003 to 2008. Within this vision are goals for stewardship andsustainable ranching, namely: To maintain and restore grasslands; to improve society’sunderstanding and appreciation of the importance and sensitivity of grassland ecosys-tems; and to keep working ranches working by encouraging stewardship activities, infor-mation exchange, partnerships, and supporting ranching culture and practices that areecologically, economically and socially sustainable. Given the ambiguity of terms such as“stewardship” and “sustainable ranching” the GCC has developed definitions:

Grassland stewardship is defined as a set of strategies and practices that will be imple-mented to ensure the long-term health and integrity of the grasslands landscape.Stewardship implies understanding, caring for, and maintaining a wide range of values,including those related to grazing. Stewardship is consistent with sustainable use—it doesnot mean preservation or protection from human use.

Sustainable ranching is defined as domestic animal grazing practices that maintain andenhance the economic and social viability of a ranching operation, while maintaining theecological integrity of the grassland landscape on which these operations depend.Since its inception, the GCC has held a basic philosophy that we will deliver on pro-

grams and services based on provincial needs where these programs or services are notcurrently being delivered by other organizations. In other words, the GCC will fill in criti-cal gaps.

One of the gaps we have decided to focus on is grassland monitoring. Monitoring is keyto maintaining and enhancing the long-term health and ecological integrity of BC’s grass-lands. We cannot discuss range management and planning without considering short- andlong-term monitoring.

The GCC has recognized a growing need to work with the ranching industry and otherinterest groups to develop (or adopt) a grassland monitoring methodology that is suitableand practical for ranchers and range managers to assess grassland ecological condition.This is an important step to ensure the long-term health and integrity of the grasslandlandscape, to work proactively with the ranching industry to “keep working ranches work-ing” and to ensure long-term ecological sustainability.

Over the past 18 months, the GCC established the Hamilton Commonage GrasslandMonitoring Project to test and provide a qualitative grassland monitoring tool for ranchersthat is practical, easy to use, and tested in British Columbia. Guided by a technical adviso-ry committee, the project team will develop and field test a selected qualitative model forassessing grassland ecological condition, testing it against a more rigorous Daubenmire, orcanopy cover, methodology. As part of the assessment process, the project team will testtwo well-established methodologies, namely the “Rangeland Health Assessment” fromAlberta (Adams, 2002/2003) and the “Rangeland Health Indicators for Qualitative Assess-ment” (Pyke 2002). This project proposes two or three pilot project sites in other regions ofthe province to test and further develop the methodology with ranchers. This will ensurethat the methodology is applicable and tested in other grassland types and with otherranchers.

Message from the Executive DirectorBruno Delesalle

continued on page 19

In This Issue4 They stayed because there was grass

Kathy McCauley

6 Grassland stewardship and sustainable ranchingMaurice Hansen

8 Grasslands, sustainable ranching and BC’s changing land useGary Runka

10 The green gold of the Cariboo Diana French

11 Profile of grassland aficionados:John and Joyce Holmes, J&J Cattle CompanyKatherine Gizikoff

12 BSE, fire and drought: A rancher’s perspectiveDuncan Barnett

13 Grazing and healthy grasslands: Perspectives from the Society for Range ManagementMike Dedels

14 Grazing and grassland vegetationPeggy Broad

15 Assassins in the grass: Robber flies of British Columbia’s grasslandsRob Cannings

16 Extension note—the effects of defoliationWendy Gardner

17 Conservation partner profile: The Real Estate Foundation of BCCelina Owen

18 Grassland enthusiasts head back to their “GRASS”rootsTaylor Zeeg

19 Other grassland conservation initiatives

20 Members’ Corner

22 GCC Project Updates

26 Across the Province

28 In the next issue

3 www.bcgrasslands.org

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Ranching is a bittersweet way to earn a living. Men andwomen stick to it because they treasure the freedom andindependence, and work that is defined by the naturalcycles of nature. But the other side of ranching is not soideal. Fickle markets, ever-increasing production costs andsinking profits have worn many a rancher down and out ofbusiness. Even nature regularly turns traitor by withhold-ing the water required to grow crops, destroying livestockwith killer winters, and providing a plethora of insects andnoxious weeds to choke forage.

Whims of the marketplace andthe weather will always be beyondcontrol, but the most essential needfor cattle ranchers, abundant grass-land, is within their sphere ofinfluence. This fact of life has cre-ated the symbiotic relationshipbetween ranchers and the landupon which they live: Their carefulstewardship makes the differencebetween healthy grassland ecosys-tems and dried out, unproductivedunes incapable of nourishing cat-tle, wildlife or any other livingthing.

The necessity and the principlesof judicious grassland manage-ment has been an evolving science,led by the needs of ranching. TheBC beef industry emerged in themid-1800s, trailing the gold rushfrom the Fraser to the Cariboo andKootenays. The gold ran out andthe miners ran off, but the cattle-

men stayed because there was grass. They created rancheson the verdant valley bottoms and mountain plateaus, andshipped their beef by rail to other markets.

In those days, livestock grazed year round and soondamaged the delicate grasses. In 1873, a traveler throughthe Cache Creek area noted in his journal that in areaswhere cattle had grazed heavily, weeds and sagebrush hadreplaced the bunchgrass. For several miles on either side ofthe roadways, the grasslands had deteriorated to,“little bet-ter than a vast sand and gravel pit bounded by broken hills,bald and arid except for a few summits that support ascanty growth of scrub pines.” Over the years that followed,cold winters with deep snow covered the grass, and chang-ing markets forced the ranchers to begin raising hay forwinter feed, and trucking beef to feedlots for finishing.

During the early 20th century, BC’s ranching industrygrew up through world wars that brought voraciousdemands for beef, plus new technology to produce it. Thebenefits were a mixed blessing, however, because the incen-tive and the means to produce more beef also gave reasonto over use and thus further weaken the grasslands, leadingto drought and grasshopper plagues.

“BC grasslands were in terrible shape by the early1930s,” remembers ninety year old Bert Brink, who workedfor the federal Department of Agriculture at the time.“Theranchers themselves recognized the problem and asked thegovernment for assistance to rehabilitate the range.” TheKamloops research station, where Brink began his career,was the result. Experiments in rotational grazing, weedcontrol, and other conservation methods already practicedby the more progressive ranchers gradually grew common-place as the principles of grassland management becamebetter understood. Researchers and ranchers learned thatgrassland ecosystems are delicate, complex and limited.Once diminished, restoration is a slow, difficult process.

Ranchers whose livelihood depends upon grass, have themost urgent need to advocate for its protection. Rancheskept within the same family for succeeding generationsusually have the best kept grasslands, as the desire to passthe property on to the next generation provides evengreater incentive to protect it. Such families are on the landfor the long term and manage the grass accordingly.

The ancestors of seventy-four-year-old Guy Rose, ownerof Merritt’s Quilchena Ranch, began ranching in the NicolaValley in the 1860s.“When I got into ranching, we were justcoming out of the age of horsepower and into machines,”he reflects.“Farm machinery has changed a lot since then.Tractors now are air-conditioned and radioed, like cadillacsinside. In the 1940s, it took forty to fifty workers to run theranch; now it takes about twelve in summer and eight inwinter. Ranching is physically easier now, but cattle prices,transportation, insects and drought are still problems.”

When Rose took over the Quilchena in 1957, the rangewas in good shape because of the consistent efforts of thegenerations who preceded him. He is passing on the ranchto the next generation in equally good or even better con-dition than when he began.“The place looks as good asever; that’s my reward for all my years in ranching,” he says.“The problem of range overuse is behind us. We depend onthe range so we have to keep it in good condition. Seriousranchers can be counted on to care about the grass. Thosewho don’t, don’t last long.”

They stayed because there was grassKathy McCauley, BA, BEd, freelance Journalist

Hilde and Guy Rose


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However, new threats to grasslands have arisen thatranchers cannot control. Subdivision of agricultural landsinto “ranchettes” has chopped up the range, forest ingrowthreclaims hundreds of hectares of grassland yearly, anduncontrolled use of recreational vehicles disturbs wildlife,pummels the grass and spreads weeds.

“In the past few years, several of the big ranches neigh-bouring ours have been sold in small parcels,” says RayFrolek, whose family has managed the 30,000 acreKamloops ranch, Frolek Cattle Co., since 1904. Ranches,which include over 80% of the grasslands, will slowly dis-appear.”

Bert Brink agrees,“Urbanization of grasslands has been disastrous. People don’t understand grasslands’limitations.”

Alkali Lake Ranch, 40 kilometres south of WilliamsLake, was the first ranch in BC and is still one of thelargest. When Doug and Marie Mervyn bought the 40,000acre spread in 1977, the grass was in good condition, andthey have improved it through vigilant weed managementand reseeding.“I love the land,” says Doug.“I wouldn’t wantto be anywhere else. It’s a real privilege to look after a pieceof land and make it better. This ranch has been here for150 years and our grass is in extremely good condition.Drive down the road and look at the ranchettes and it’s adifferent story. They don’t know how to manage grass.”

Ranchers have learned the hard way.“There’s been bigstrides in grasslands management, but there’s still much todo,” concludes Guy Rose.“The next step is educating thepublic that it’s an important ecosystem. Sometimes peoplejust don’t understand about grass,” he continues thought-fully.“So we need to educate them. You can’t legislate every-thing,” he muses.“It’s like legislating against sin—it justdoesn’t work. Education is the key, more effective than leg-islation.”

If the grasslands are destroyed, ranchers will be the firstto feel the loss. However, they will not be the last. Ranchersaren’t the only ones who inhabit BC’s grasslands; over onethird of BC’s species at risk live there too, including badg-ers, long-billed curlews, sharp-tailed grouse, small-footedmyotis (bats), 333 rare insect species in the SouthernInterior alone, and hundreds of delicate grasses and otherplants. Grasslands include not just grass, but marshes,streams, and forest zones with hundreds of species ofwildlife and plants. If one believes that whatever diminish-es the earth’s creatures, diminishes us all, then the implica-tions are terrifying. Disappearing grassland is not just aconcern for ranchers, but for all who value the land and itscreatures.

Kathy McCauley is a writer and teacher who lives in the EastKootenay grasslands. You can reach her [email protected]

Doug and Marie Mervyn at their Alkali Lake Ranch nearWilliams Lake

5 www.bcgrasslands.org

New threats to grasslands have arisen that ranchers cannot control.

Subdivision of agricultural lands into “ranchettes” has chopped up the range,

forest ingrowth reclaims hundreds of hectares of grassland yearly.

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Since 95% of BC’sgrasslands are grazed

by cattle, the linkbetween cattleranching and grass-land stewardship isa fact of life. This isnot likely to weakenanytime soon

(although the effectsof the mess created by

BSE are yet to be tal-lied, I’d like to think BC

ranching will endure thisand come through perhaps

beat up but more or less intact).The Grassland Conservation Council

has recognized this linkage and establishedthe Grassland Stewardship and Sustainable Ranching

Program as a result.The GCC’s vision is of healthy and life-sustaining grass-

land ecosystems in the province. This also implies keepingsecure what grasslands we now have and recovering andrestoring grasslands where possible. The SustainableRanching Program goal, in support of this vision, is to keepworking ranches working. Of the laundry list of issues thatthreaten this goal, the GCC has chosen subdivision andfragmentation of ranches as deserving immediate atten-tion. A problem analysis is underway and from that theboard of directors will develop an action strategy. Thebiggest problem, of course, is that selling the ranch foramenity purposes can pay very well. And this trend is inplay throughout western North America. There’s no pointin kidding ourselves: Reversing this trend will not be acinch. If the reader would like to examine in full the ideasthe board will be implementing to achieve the GrasslandStewardship and Sustainable Ranching Program’s goals,these can be seen in their entirety in the GCC’s strategicplan document (www.bcgrasslands.org).

So if, over time, we can put a stop to ranches being dis-membered we will have gone a distance towards keepingthem in place as functioning enterprises contributing tothe GCC’s vision.

In addition to the threat of subdivided ranches becom-ing playgrounds for urban refugees, where starter castlefantasies and other open space disasters erupt, there’s anissue much closer to the ground that is also critical to the

GCC’s vision and the second part of this program area:Stewardship of grasslands. To quote from the 2003–2008Strategic Plan: “Stewardship implies caring for and main-taining a wide range of values including those related tograzing. Stewardship is consistent with sustainable use[and] does not mean preservation or protection fromhuman use.” So the picture that emerges is one of intactviable ranching enterprises whose grazing practices are intune with the ecological integrity of the grasslands onwhich they depend for existence.

To indulge in a little history, grassland stewardship is, inthe context of ranching history, a new concept. During itsfrontier phase, North American cattle ranching movedacross the landscape like a ripple on a pool. Two causesdrove this phenomenon: Either depletion of the forageresource or colonization of grassland frontiers by farmersand civilization, or both. The most extreme example ofrapid resource depletion I’ve discovered was on Mexico’scentral mesa during its time as a cattle frontier in the1700s. The interval between establishing a cattle estanciaon a grass frontier and forced departure to grass beyondthe mountains, by reason of a depleted resource, was abouttwenty years. In the case of forced departure we all knowwho won the battle between the sodbusters and the cattlebarons. This dynamic and often devastating pastoralmigration came to rest on the margins and in pockets ofit’s former territory. It may be worth repeating the obvious,that today cattle raising, based on the extensive rangemodel, exists only on those areas unsuitable for farmingand intensive types of agriculture and away from heavyhuman traffic. No new frontier beckons as it famously didthrough the latter half of the 19th century. The shift from abusiness that was always on the move, to one of fixed hori-zons is still being adjusted to in my opinion. Terry Jordan’sbook, North American Cattle Ranching Frontiers, gives afascinating account and analysis of the progression of thesefrontiers from the arrival of cattle in the Americas in 1493to the closing of the final cattle frontier, BC’s Chilcotin inthe 1950s.

In any event, we have moved, as a society, from permit-ting unfettered exploitation of grasslands to an attitude ofpreservation, conservation and restoration. Combining thenotions of grassland stewardship and sustainable ranchingis consistent with the leading conservation ideas of the dayand holds the possibility for benefits to both grasslandsand the ranching community. Because of ranching’s histo-ry, combining the notions of cattle ranching and grassland

Grassland stewardship and sustainable ranching

Maurice Hansen, Co-ordinator, Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society

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7 www.bcgrasslands.org

stewardship has been met with suspicion in some quarters.Allaying those suspicions and enhancing credibility isanother desired outcome of this part of the program.

So grassland stewardship has two challenges: Actuallyachieving stewardship goals and then being believed.Making this happen calls for a combination of science andpolitics. The science is the easy part and there’s a lot of itaround. Over the last 75 years a flood of knowledge on theeffects and management of domestic animal grazing onnative grasslands has been produced by the scientific com-munity. Over the last thirty years in BC there has been asolid effort to introduce more sophisticated range manage-ment. Anecdotal evidence indicates this has had a positiveeffect on BC’s grasslands. We’ve advanced from theColumbus cattle management system: Turn ’em out in thespring and discover ’em again in the fall. That’s all to thegood, but as grazing management has improved, so thedarn bar keeps getting raised. For ranchers this is likeanother cost/price squeeze.

Politics, and there’s a lot of that also, will be the hardpart, at least on the commons—and the majority of graz-ing lands in BC are publicly owned, about 47%. As anyoneknows whose work, career, interests and aspirations centreon the commons, decision making goes into the slow lane,communication goes off the complexity scale, the full spec-trum of human virtues and vices come into play, oftenweighted towards the latter. If someone figures out how tocut this Gordian knot, they will be hailed as the hero of themillennium. What we do know is the commons willbecome increasingly crowded. In the meantime, persever-ance is probably the most important attribute for workingon the commons.

The principle upon which this program area will live or

die is partnership. Everyone’s doing partnerships today sowhy not the GCC? Partnerships with ranchers and theranching community will be the foundation of the pro-gram. The ideas to be implemented that will result in thisprogram area meeting its goals are stewardship activities,information exchange (we should change this to “learn-ing”) and supporting ranching culture and practices. Thereis no more detail than that at the moment, and for goodreason. Until partnership(s) between the GCC and theranching community are formed, these are only ideas, notsilver bullets. For the ideas to work, the partnership mustfunction.

At the February 2003 Society for Range Managementmeeting in Casper, Wyoming, I watched a presentation thattold an interesting story of (what appeared to be) a suc-cessful grazing management innovation strategy resultingfrom a partnership between a grazing association and aca-demia. In this case the partnership was initiated by thegrazing association’s ranchers who were motivated by thepotential loss of their grazing allotment in the face of strin-gent environmental standards. As the GCC’s programmoves into implementation, I hope we can cook up a part-nership that works as well as this one apparently did. Muchis at stake for the GCC, the ranching community, and mostimportantly BC’s grasslands.

Maurice is a semi-retired rancher whose love of savannahgrasslands developed at an early age. As coordinator for theRocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society, he worksfor seven local organizations to influence restoration ofecosystems in the Columbia Valley. Maurice lives just south of Ta Ta Creek near Kimberley, BC. He can be reached at (250) 427-5200 or [email protected]

Jim White, GCCDirector/RangelandAssociates, details theprocess of setting upphoto-point transectsand the methodology for monitoring during the GCC’s HealthyGrasslands Workshop in June. PHOTO BY PAUL SANBORN

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The grasslands/ranching contextFrom the grassy dunes and beaches of the Queen CharlotteIslands to the Tobacco Plains of the southern RockyMountain Trench; from the Stikine River slopes atTelegraph Creek to Crater Mountain south of Keremeos,there has been a long history of domestic livestock grazinguse of grasslands. Currently 95% of BC’s grasslands arereported as components of ‘working ranches.’

‘Grasslands’ and even the term ‘working ranch’ mean different things to different people. Sustainable livestockgrazing use can help maintain the structure and functionof grassland ecosystems, while overuse and unsustainablegrazing practices can hasten their demise. Finding com-mon ground amongst all of those with interests in grass-land biodiversity conservation and stewardship has neverbeen more critical.

The fact is that grassland biodiversity and workingranches are both under increasing threats. What many maynot recognize, however, is that their respective futures areintricately linked. Lose ‘working ranches’ and we probablyalso lose our precious grassland ecosystems and theirunique biodiversity.

Diverse and increasing threatsGrasslands and working ranches are exposed to a multi-plicity of threats, with the intensity and combinationdependent upon ecological characteristics and specificgeographic location within the province. In some cases, thethreats are external to those with grassland interests—the“usual suspects” that include residential/industrial urbanland use conversion, rural lifestyle residential, and the age-old problem of confusing stewardship roles and responsi-

bilities within and outside of governments. In other cases,the threats have emerged only in recent decades, such asforest encroachment, climate change and the impacts ofrecreational uses that include everything from off-roadATVs to hang gliding.

Some of the most complex and difficult-to-deal-withthreats originate within agricultural and environmentalinterests themselves. These include noxious weeds, thechanging economics of beef production, unsustainablelivestock grazing practices, fish habitat requirements forwater quality and quantity, and sale or conversion to otheragricultural uses of existing ranch legal parcels.

Overarching this multiplicity of threats—which oftenoccur in tightly interrelated combinations—is a continuinglack of public understanding of just how much is at stake.This in itself is a monumental issue.

While space doesn’t allow for specific discussion of all ofthese threats to the grassland/ranch complex, several war-rant at least a few further comments. Perhaps a big sur-prise to many British Columbians (but probably not tothose directly involved or concerned with grasslands) isthat one of the most serious threats to grassland integrityis noxious weeds. Depending on geographical location,knapweed, toad flax and a host of other weed species arehaving a major negative impact on grasslands ecosystems,both in terms of sustainable livestock grazing use and crit-ical habitats for species-at-risk.

Despite our 30-year—and overall successful—history ofagricultural land preservation in BC, the threat of rural andurban land use conversion continues in parts of theprovince for a variety of reasons. Often, the very attributesof climate, micro-climate, aspect and soils that result ingrassland ecosystems also offer high suitability—includingattractive viewscapes—for residential uses.

Decisions of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC)have sometimes resulted in loss of important grasslands.Perhaps understandably, Commission focus has beenmainly on arable lands (Capability Classes 1–4), althoughin some of the ranching areas of the province, key grass-lands (Capability Classes 5 and 6) are included in theAgricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and considered equallyimportant. As pressures continue for subdivision withinthe ALR or exclusion of land from the ALR, key grasslandsare sometimes seen by local and regional governments,and even the ALC, as the ‘lesser of two evils’ urban expan-sion option because of their narrower range of croppingoptions due to soil, climate or slope constraints. The viabil-ity of working ranch units—and their associated grass-lands—have sometimes been seriously compromised by

Grasslands, sustainable ranching and BC’s G. Gary Runka, PAg. CAC FAIC


Horses taking a break atAlkali Lake Ranch. PHOTO BY LIZ TWAN

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changing land use

the selling off of existing parcels of land for “ranchettes,”rural recreational or urban development.

Recreational use on grasslands varies from well-man-aged with cooperation of all users to completely out-of-control with serious degradation to grassland ecosystemsto the detriment of livestock grazing, biodiversity andmulti-species habitats. Often closely linked with weedinfestation, this impact problem occurs on grasslands,whether privately owned, First Nation Reserve or Crown.Seldom can dogs, livestock, ATVs, critical habitat andrecreationists all co-exist on grasslands, except underexceptional management circumstances.

The constantly changing economics of beef production,spiraling input costs, consumer demands for differentproducts, international marketing complexities, biotech-nology, genetics management and bombshells like BSE alltrigger management crises—and, therefore, grasslandsstewardship crises—on too many working ranches.

Changing land values, particularly on the urban/grass-lands edge, also take their toll. When land values escalatefar above economic rent for forage/beef production, someranchers start considering land use change and perhapsmoving to an area of land values they can afford. Thus, wehave a general trend of beef production moving away fromsome traditional use grassland areas to regions of theprovince where land values are more in line with what aforage/beef enterprise can carry.

Even within agriculture itself, conversion of grasslandsto cultivated, often irrigated, crops has long been part ofour history. For example, on the Okanagan Valley lower ele-vation grasslands, lands historically used for livestockgrazing and winter feed production and home to manyspecies at risk, have in recent times been converted togrape production because of their super heat-unit micro-climate. This conversion to more intensive agricultural usewithin the ALR may be of benefit to provincial agriculturein general but it impacts negatively on grasslands.

Then, there are the competing environmental and ‘natu-ral phenomena’ factors that put additional stress on grass-land ecosystems and working ranches. Perhaps key to thisgroup of ‘threats’ is the competition for water. If we includemulti-species grassland habitat requirements, fish habitat,forage requirements and livestock health, the linkages nec-essary to accommodate all grassland interests have wideranging tentacles. With water becoming an increasinglyscarce commodity, working ranches have to compete forwater that is needed for their beef production unit. Thisfurther stresses the economics of beef production, result-ing in reduced stewardship options on the grasslands.

Forest encroachment is an issue in regions such as theEast Chilcotin where this transition in vegetation commu-nity is moving us toward a more forested landscape withgrass as a lesser component. Through this and other issuesas specific as fire management and as general as climatechange, we can expect significant vegetation communityshifts, which will require considerable adjustment to ourthinking about grasslands management.

Last, but certainly not least, lack of public awarenessmust also be seen as a threat to a sustainable future forgrasslands. More effective communication on what ‘grass-lands’ mean ecologically to a significant number of speciesand how this links/integrates with livestock grazing andeconomically sustainable working ranches is difficult butessential.

Grasslands stewardship the only optionThe position of grasslands is often central to the provincialland use change maze, and the interests associated withgrasslands represent a cross-section of BC society. The tan-gible progress we have made in recent decades in terms ofgrasslands stewardship is perhaps partly due to this posi-tioning.

The increased on-ranch attention to riparian and uplandgrasslands with respect to winter feeding site location andrange management fencing is evident as one drivesHighways 1, 97 or 20, for example, and these rancher initia-tives have contributed significantly to stewardshipimprovement. Award programs, such as those of BCCattlemen’s Association and Canadian Cattlemen’sAssociation, also enhance the image of working ranchstewardship.

Publicly-funded programs such as the BC LivestockManagement and Water Stewardship Program directlyenhance stewardship opportunity on grasslands. Similarly,the provincial government assessment of ‘proper function-ing condition’ of grassland plant communities sets a posi-tive framework for managing and monitoring grasslandsstewardship success or failure.

The stewardship efforts of NGOs have been significant.Using a variety of tools, including land acquisition, lease-back for enhanced integrated livestock grazing manage-ment with a biodiversity focus, options to purchase andconservation easements, organizations such as DucksUnlimited Canada, The Nature Trust of BC, The LandConservancy of BC, and the Nature Conservancy of Canadahave all contributed to setting a positive stewardship trend.

Having said this, grassland stewardship remains in its

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Cattle ranching is one of British Columbia’smajor resource industries. It is also one of theoldest. Cariboo ranches established in 1860 arestill in production, some are still in the samefamily.

The fur trade brought the first Europeans towhat is now British Columbia in the early1800s, but it had little impact on the land. Thegold rush was a different matter. Thousands ofminers, veterans of the California gold rush,swarmed north seeking their fortunes in thenew goldfields. Cattlemen were right behindthem. In June, 1858, two months after the firstboatload of prospectors arrived in Victoria,General Joel Palmer, an Oregon entrepreneur,trailed a herd of cattle across the border atOsoyoos. He went through the Okanagan and onto the Fraser River where he sold the animals tohungry miners.

Other drovers followed, purchasing cattle inWashington and Oregon and trailing them toKamloops or Cache Creek where they left themfor the winter. When the grass greened inspring, the owners continued the drive to thegold fields. For an investment of six or seventhousand dollars and two months on the trail, adrover could pocket $50,000, more than manyminers made during the entire gold rush.

Jerome and Thaddeus Harper, founders ofthe legendary Gang Ranch, were among the first to realize the Interior’s grassy slopes wereideal for raising cattle. In partners with the von Volkenberg brothers they founded a ranch-ing empire which dominated the industry forthe next 20 years. Other pioneer ranchers wereHerman Bowe, who founded the Alkali LakeRanch on the Fraser River Trail; EdwardDougherty, who began Maiden Creek Ranchnear Clinton on the Cariboo Wagon Road, andPeter C. Dunlevy, the first to make a stake in theCariboo gold fields, establishing a ranch nearSoda Creek. These and many other ranches arestill going strong. Maiden Creek is still in theDougherty family.

By 1870 the gold rush was over and the mar-ket for beef gone, but one way or another thecattlemen endured, and communities grew uparound the ranches. Today there are all sizesand manner of ranches from the large spreads

with thousands of cattle to small family opera-tions. Grass, the green gold of the Cariboo, con-tinues to sustain the industry which continuesto be one of the province’s economic mainstays.

The face of ranching has changed over theyears. Computer marketing, year-round salesand huge cattle liners have replaced the brutalonce-a-year cattle drives and machines havereplaced work horses, but cattlemen still workon the land and in rhythm with it. Spring is stillcalving time. Summer is haying, but now ahandful of workers put up a ranch’s winter feedwhere it used to take a crew of dozens. Cowboysstill ride the range, keeping an eye on the stock.The cows still come home in fall, and fall iswhen the stockyards have the biggest sales. Thebasic herd is fed over the winter, and then thecycle repeats.

Some ranchers say they raise cows, others saythey raise grass. The truth is you can’t have theformer without the latter. Cattle are nature’srecycling machines, turning grass humanswon’t eat into a protein they enjoy. The successof cattlemen depends not only on how well theymanage their herds, but on how well they main-tain the grasslands that sustain those herds.The fact that the grasslands have been support-ing cattle for over 140 years is some indicationthey are doing both.

BC ranchers have always had their ups anddowns. Technology hasn’t changed the ranchers’dependence on the weather, and a drought or asevere winter can still raise havoc with the bestof plans. Nor has technology solved the problemof fluctuating market prices. Access to Crownland, always an issue, is complicated now by thetreaty process. Water rights, land use conflictswith other users such as the forest and recre-ation sectors, and control of noxious weeds areongoing issues facing ranching as it enters itsthird century in British Columbia.

As this is written, the US embargo on beefexports because of one “mad cow” is costing theindustry millions of dollars. If it isn’t resolvedsoon, the results could be disastrous. But ranch-ers are a hardy lot, and the industry may getbattered, as it has sometimes in the past, but itwill survive.

A retired journalist, Diana has written twobooks, The Road Runs West, and Ranchland:British Columbia’s Cattle Country. She writes aweekly column for the Williams Lake Tribune,chairs the Board of Directors of the Museum ofthe Cariboo Chilcotin, and is co-chair of theCariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

The green gold of the Cariboo Diana French, retired Journalist

Bronc Twan and Cojo at Alkali Lake Ranch. PHOTO BY LIZ TWAN

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John and Joyce Holmes, J&J Cattle Company, have aunique opportunity. They are leasing the historic EmpireValley Ranch, now known as the Churn Creek ProtectedArea (CCPA). With its 30,000 acres of beautiful, roamingbunchgrass landscape, this is a southern BC ranchingexperience that few young cattlemen can venture intoexcept through family inheritance.

At the recent GCC tour of the CCPA, Joyce provided theattendees with a description of their ventures, challengesand rewards. Their passion for the grasslands was aninspiration to the tour participants. Joyce emphasizedthat ranchers are stewards of the land. As well, shedemonstrated how the rancher can work with livestock’snatural grazing pattern to utilize the grassy slopes thatvary in topography, distance from water and conditionsthroughout the year.

The ranch historically ran somewhere between 1000to 2000 head. The CCPA management plan objective is tore-invigorate the plant communities and improve thegrassland health. J&J currently hold a grazing lease for500 head (cow/calf). Grass is left over, and pastures arerested through a rotation system.“Visitors comment onall the grass…we like that!” said Joyce.

The rewards of operating a ranch in this magnificentlandscape are not without their challenges. Apart frombeing rugged and wild, the home place is very remote,being two hours from Williams Lake, 100 Mile House orClinton. With grizzlies and wolves on the range andoccasional cougars in the barn, there are dangers to theirlivestock and family that few in urban life can imagine.In this remote area, hired help is difficult to find; there-fore, most of the haying, weed management, and ridingis done by John and Joyce themselves.

It is their love for the ranch and its grasslands thatmotivate them beyond the heavy workload and the polit-ical aspects involved with leasing the first Crown-ownedranch.“It is in our best interest to be flexible and cooper-ate; however, we voice our concerns,” says Joyce. In addi-tion, they hospitably accommodate numerous govern-

ment employees and grassland consultants in their homethroughout the year.

John and Joyce are individuals capable of rising tothese challenges. John was raised in the Nicola Valley.As a youngster he began working on ranches as a farm-hand, then as a horse wrangler for guiding outfits andrider for large cattle ranches throughout BC. Joyce wasborn on a ranch in Wyoming and later moved with herfamily to a ranch in Big Creek, BC. Her horse handlingcapabilities and cattle experience rival John’s. Whileworking together riding for the Gang Ranch, they wouldgaze across Churn Creek at Empire Valley. John remem-bers,“We would talk about someday starting our owncattle operation, but only dream of something likeEmpire Valley.”

Their dreams came true in 1998 after BC Parksannounced that they had purchased Empire ValleyRanch. They submitted a letter of interest to BC Parks,which started the public request for ranch operationproposals. J&J were the successful proponents and beganwith a cooperative lease with the local First NationBands—J&J held the grazing tenure while First Nationsworked the hay fields.“Looking back…those were oureasiest years,” said John. In 2001, J&J were issued a ten-year lease for the CCPA.

BC’s grassland conservationists are fortunate to haveJohn and Joyce as stewards of the Churn Creek grass-lands. They have a rare combination of youthfulstrength, ranching experience, and tolerance of govern-ment bureaucracy to rise to the challenge of running asuccessful operation in the CCPA. These modern daypioneers are truly grassland aficionados within theranching sector.

Katherine was raised in Vancouver and escaped to BC’sInterior after obtaining a BSc in Agriculture from UBC in1981. She fell in love with the Nicola Valley grasslandswhile working as a range agrologist for the Ministry ofForests. After leaving the Forest Service, she entered intothe land reclamation field. With a MSc degree in ResourceManagement, Katherine relocated to Alberta and workedfor a large coal company re-establishing wildlife, grazingand waterfowl habitat values on mined lands throughoutthe western provinces. She moved back to the Nicola Valleyin 1992 and has since been the principal of KG Consultingworking throughout southern BC, specializing in landrestoration. Along with her husband, she currently resideson a small acreage with their two children, several horses,pony, donkey, cats, dogs…

John and Joyce Holmes, J&J Cattle CompanyKatherine Gizikoff, KG Consulting

John and Joyce Holmes,owners of J&J CattleCompany. John and Joyceranch at Empire Valley inthe Churn Creek ProtectedArea. PHOTO BY BEV RAMSTAD,NEIGHBOUR FROM GANG RANCH


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BSE, fire and drought: A rancher’s perspectiveDuncan Barnett, Rancher and Consultant

For BC’s cattle ranchers, 2003 began with noindication of the turmoil that was to come. Thefinding of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy(BSE) in an Alberta cow was the beginning of asummer that saw severe drought and the mostdevastating fires in the province’s recent history.As summer draws to a close, many ranchersfind themselves backed into a corner.

No doubt grassland conservationists haveseveral questions. How do these pressures affectmanagement decisions that in turn directlyaffect Crown range resources? What do all theseissues mean for grassland health? What areranchers grappling with when trying to run aneconomically viable operation and manage theirland in a sustainable way? While the impactshave not yet been fully assessed, some are obvi-ous.

BSEBovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Called the worst crisis in Canadian agriculturalhistory, the discovery of BSE in a single Albertacow shut down export markets for the beef cat-tle industry on May 20. A partial lifting of theexport ban by the US on September 1 allowedrestricted trade to resume in boneless beefunder 30 months of age. This product is provensafe from risk of BSE.

Unfortunately for BC producers, the borderremains closed for trade in live animals. Theloss of the live animal export market has result-ed in reduced demand for BC cattle, loweringprices dramatically, especially for older animals.The lack of slaughter facilities in BC furthercompounds the problem, as domestic process-ing is not a ready option.

Ranchers find themselves caught up in afrustrating web of international trade rules, tar-iffs and quotas, and a complex beef marketingand distribution system very far removed fromthe farm gate. Consumers continue to ask “ifyou are not getting anything why am I payingso much?” The lesson is that ranchers need tolearn where their product goes and consumersneed to find out where their beef comes from.

The BC Cattlemen’s Association, working withgovernment and other industry stakeholders, isinvestigating options to displace offshoreimports, expand processing capabilities in BC,identify cold storage options, and create new

product and market opportunities by takingadvantage of the expected excess supply andlower market value of cull animals.

DroughtBSE was about the only dark cloud that manyranchers saw through the record breaking hot,dry months of July and August. Drought hasbeen particularly acute in the Southern Interior,impacting forage and water resources.

Forage production on hayfields, pastures andrangelands has been well below average acrossmost of British Columbia. Reduced forage pro-duction has meant decreased weight gains forcattle. Livestock and wildlife have had to travelfurther to obtain adequate nutrition. In manycases, ranchers have had to reduce cattle num-bers on the range, using up limited and valuablewinter feed supplies ahead of time, or incurringthe additional expense of shipping cattle to pri-vate pastures. The usual option of sending cattleto market early has not been available, and theextra cattle held back due to lack of marketingopportunities has compounded the problem.

Indeed, some upland areas too far fromwater were left untouched. Livestock have gonethrough fences in search of water, making live-stock management difficult and grazing rota-tion plans redundant. Ranchers have hauledwater to cattle and developed new stock water-ing sources on an emergency basis. No doubt,riparian areas have been hit hard this year bylivestock and wildlife.

Although parched grasslands may look over-used this year, a single stressful event shouldnot have long-term impacts on the ecosystem.As advocates of the resource and not the indus-try, the Ministry of Forests allocates grazingrights conservatively for just this reason.Weather itself is one of the variables that ranch-ers are used to dealing with and have developedvarious management strategies to cope with.

FireBad things come in threes. Sure enough, theeffects of this year’s BSE crisis and drought havebeen magnified by fire. Wildfires throughoutthe province have been devastating and danger-ous.

Damage assessments must be completed andreclamation undertaken, but it is obvious thatthe many interface fires have impacted sensitive

grasslands and transition forest types.Preliminary assessments on the Kamloops

area fires indicate that six to seven thousandAnimal Unit Months (AUMs) have been lost forthe near future. 150 kilometers of Crown rangefencing is gone, along with many natural barri-ers to cattle movement. More than 100 cattlehave been killed or put down. Often nothingremains but a powdery carcass. Like wildlife,cattle have traveled far outside traditional rangeareas to escape fire and smoke. Fire displace-ment puts additional pressure on remainingrange areas.

The catastrophic fire season has pointed tothe need for a review of provincial wildfire poli-cy. To date, the emphasis has been to preventfires and preserve timber. From a range per-spective, the result has been encroachment andingrowth of timber into grasslands.

Ecological restoration should be the newdirection. Prescribed burning needs to be usedas a management tool to restore ecosystems.Along with grazing, prescribed burning can alsoreduce the buildup of dry understorey fuels inthe interface zone, limiting the potential forhigh intensity wildfires.

As we have seen, high intensity wildfires burnlonger and hotter, destroying soils. Revegetationbecomes an issue. Seeding may need to beundertaken for purposes of erosion control andforage production. Concerns about the potentialfor seeding to change native plant communitieswill need to be dealt with.

As fall rains arrive, pressures have eased a bitfor some 1,500 ranchers who rely on Crownrange and water resources. There may be sometough times ahead, but BC’s ranches will sur-vive and continue to contribute to the economyand stability of rural BC. Ranchers will continuetheir role as stewards of the land, protectinggrasslands from developers and subdivisionthrough beneficial use.

Duncan Barnett divides his time between family,ranching, consulting and local governmentduties. Duncan and his wife, Jane, along withtheir three daughters, own and operate the familyranch at Miocene, near Williams Lake, BC.

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When asked to write on the above topic for this issue of BCGrasslands I thought that I would start by reading backover a few issues of Rangelands, the non-technical publica-tion of the Society for Range Management. I found that theSociety has been struggling with the perception that rangemanagement is the same as grazing management for anumber of years now. It is true that the science of rangemanagement developed in the early twentieth centurylargely due to pressures put on the land by grazing. Todaythe Society for Range Management (SRM) is dealing withmany of the same issues as the GCC: Rangeland monitor-ing, noxious weeds, forest encroachment, development andrecreational use to name a few. These issues are not isolat-ed to BC, but are common throughout the west and otherparts of the world. Those involved with grasslands inBritish Columbia need to remember to use the knowledgeand experience gathered elsewhere and the Society forRange Management provides that opportunity.

SRM has developed a number of position statementsregarding issues vital to healthy grasslands. These include,among others: biological diversity, carrying capacity, firemanagement, noxious and invasive weeds, off-road vehicleuse, riparian values, and use of native and introduced plantspecies. These can be found at the Society website,www.srm.org

The following is SRM’s policy on Management ofRangeland Ecosystems: “The Society believes that range-land ecosystems should be managed to provide optimumsustained yield of tangible and intangible products andbenefits for human welfare. This can only be achievedthrough the sound use of ecological and economic princi-ples. The use of valid resource inventories and monitoringare basic requirements for planning and management ofrangeland resources. Other manipulative managementpractices, including fire and integrated pest managementmay be employed to create positive changes in the land-scape through development of sustainable, desired plantcommunities.” Livestock grazing is one of the tools formanaging rangelands and providing a tangible productfrom the range.“The Society supports appropriatelyplanned and monitored livestock grazing based on scientif-

ic principles that meet management goals and societalneeds.”

One of the terms used commonly with regard to range is“the science and art of range management.” There is a lotof science out there, and the art seems to be picking theright science to apply to the situation. For the livestockmanager on the ground, the art is balancing all of the sci-ence with economics. On topics such as range readiness,utilization, grazing rotations and monitoring methodsthere are varied schools of thought, each generally with sci-ence to back them up. I think that most of us would agreethat appropriately planned and managed livestock grazingis a good thing, but we seem to have some problem decid-ing what appropriate is! That does not mean that weshould end the discussion, but through groups such asSRM and the GCC we should expose our members and theranching community to the broad base of knowledge thatexists.

A key objective of SRM is to “assist all who work withrange resources to keep abreast of new findings and tech-niques in the science and art of range management.” In myrole with the Forest Service we are working with rancherson managing Crown range. As a whole they have a goodunderstanding of their livestock and the way they use therange, but a pretty varied understanding of what a healthygrassland is. Government, resource societies, and the cat-tlemen themselves all have some responsibility to improvethis knowledge. As we move to an era where ranchers aregoing to be expected to do more monitoring and planning,rather than government, the level of knowledge at the pro-ducer level will need to increase. Even when we come toagreement between government, GCC and SRM regardinggrazing systems, rangeland monitoring, etc. and their rolein achieving healthy grasslands, we will have accomplishedlittle if we cannot transfer this knowledge to the ownersand/or managers of BC’s grasslands: The ranchers. We willalso need to better include First Nations in the discussion,both for management of Reserve areas and areas withAboriginal interest.

The goal of healthy grasslands is supported by both the

Grazing and healthy grasslands: Perspectives from the Society for Range ManagementMike Dedels, President, BC Chapter of the Pacific Northwest Section of SRM

Longhorns pose for thecamera at Alkali Lake RanchPHOTO BY LIZ TWAN

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Fall Grazing, Alkali Lake RanchPHOTO BY LIZ TWAN


Many people consider BC’s ranching legacy tobe negative in terms of its impacts on nativegrassland species. This has been the source ofmany debates between ranchers and environ-mentalists. My question would be: “Is this reallythe case?” My typical response would be the oneof most avid ecologists, and I would most likelyuse that all encompassing statement “itdepends.” Some species in many areas withinBC’s grasslands were historically overgrazed, nodoubt about it, but what we have learned fromthis has made many of today’s grazing practiceswithin BC quite stellar.

Some of the same species that declined in thepast due to overgrazing can actually benefitfrom grazing today—the key is in the approach.Let’s use our old grassland friend bluebunchwheatgrass as an example. This species is oftentermed a decreaser and if improper grazingdoes occur the overall population of this speciestends to decline within the area. Many individu-als regard this species as being rather “delicateand susceptible to harm” once they hear theterm decreaser associated with it.

Okay, if we follow the line of thinking thatdecreasers are so delicate, could we thenassume that if bluebunch wheatgrass wasplaced in an exclosure and kept away from allgrazing pressure and fire that it would thrive?Not quite. Many of the province’s older exclo-sures that have followed this very approach havesome rather sad looking bluebunch wheatgrassspecimens within their walls. They no longerhave defined individual clumps but rather amaze of plants that emerge when the hearts ofthe plants die off.

Some believe that the decline in various

bunchgrass species populations under theseolder exclosure conditions may be due to thefact that grass bunches start to grow togetherand lack of air circulation around plant basessets up an ideal habitat for disease. The lack ofremoval of old vegetation no doubt can alsoplay a role in creating an ideal situation for dis-ease establishment. Whatever the cause ofbunchgrass decline in this environment, bunch-grass species tend to do better when there is alittle space around the individual plants andolder foliage is removed by animals or fire.

Grazing can help to maintain plant vigorwhen implemented according to the plant’srequirements. In the case of bluebunch wheat-grass there are numerous opinions as to whichapproach is best. From this plant’s ecologicaland physiological perspectives it benefits from abreak in the spring and again in the fall to allowit to uptake moisture while it is available forgrowth. Grazing in winter, summer, and/or fall(but allowing for fall re-growth) may have abeneficial effect on bluebunch wheatgrass.

Using grazing patterns that follow the plantsgrowth cycles gives the plant an opportunity togrow when moisture is available—a key factorfor many bunchgrass species which live in ourdry grassland areas. Bunchgrass species such asFestuca scabrella (rough fescue) respond in thesame way as bluebunch wheatgrass within olderexclosures, and grazing to remove excess andolder foliage between growth periods is just asbeneficial for this species. Removal of old orexcess foliage may play a role in decreasing dis-ease prospects for bunchgrass species andincreasing plant vigor.

Now back to “it depends.” We need to think

more closely about the overall picture createdwhen we graze our grasslands with domesticlivestock species. We can’t simply assume thatcows eat grass and this is bad. Grazing livestockis an important part of the grassland legacythroughout North America. With what we havelearned throughout the many years of grazingpractices and what we have learned in terms ofplant physiology, we now have the power tograze in an effective manner to improve nativebunchgrass health or graze in a manner thatcan cause decreasers like bluebunch wheatgrassto decline. It is definitely an interesting balance,a challenge, and a concept that requires thoughtand planning from many perspectives, butdecreaser species can be grazed in a way thatcan actually help to improve plant vigor andreduce disease potential.

So enjoy BC’s grasslands and look moreclosely at bluebunch wheatgrass, rough fescueand other native bunchgrass species that youencounter. Have they been grazed or not? Dothey appear healthy or are they burdened withclumps of old rotting foliage that may set up apotential for future disease problems? Andwhen you see the cows in the hills, don’t justassume that they are out to cause harm, evencows can be beneficial in the preservation ofour grasslands when managed appropriately!

Peggy graduated from UBC in Forest Sciences,becoming interested in grasslands through herinfatuation with plants and ecology. She is a lab-oratory demonstrator and instructor in theDepartment of Natural Resource Sciences at theUniversity College of the Cariboo in Kamloops.You can reach Peggy at [email protected]

Grazing and grassland vegetationPeggy Broad, Instructor, University College of the Cariboo

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Assassins in the grass: Robber flies of British Columbia’s grasslandsRob Cannings, Curator of Entymology, Royal BC Museum


Efferia benedicti: There is no common name forthis robber fly, an abundant species in manygrasslands in southern BC. This is a female, with asword-like egg-laying organ at the end of theabdomen; the sharp feeding proboscis projectsbelow the head. Robber flies are named for theirhunting style—like muggers, they attack unwaryvictims. ILLUSTRATION BY NICOLE M. BRAND

At Chopaka, not far from where the Similka-meen River crosses into the United States, dustysagebrush shimmers in the July heat.Grasshoppers with red or yellow wings crackleamong the bunchgrass. Birders come here inthe cool early morning to see the rare sagethrasher and maybe a grasshopper sparrow. Icome here for the robber flies, but I don’t arriveuntil the sun beats down mercilessly.

Many robber flies are hard to find, but herethey are abundant and diverse. As I sit quietly, agiant grey Proctacanthus occidentalis, theprovince’s largest fly (almost 5 cm long),pounces on an unwary grasshopper. A bit small-er, but just as aggressive, a Stenopogon inquina-tus bumbles by carrying the impaled corpse ofa clearwing moth. The prey is at least twice asheavy as the fly, but somehow this fierce preda-tor has managed to get airborne with its catch.Once I saw this species pin and kill a clubtaildragonfly, many times its size, sunning on theground. Robber flies are named for their hunt-ing style—like muggers they attack unwary vic-tims. The fly grabs its insect prey with bristlylegs then kills it with an injection of neurotoxicsaliva from its sharp proboscis—the fluid dis-solves muscles and organs and the fly sucks theprey dry just like you’d devour a milkshake.

Here, only a few hundred metres from theinternational boundary, is the only known sitein British Columbia for Megaphorus willistoni—a truly rare animal in a rare habitat. At least 18species of robber flies are considered potentiallyrare and threatened in British Columbia, andalmost all are restricted to either these dry low-lands of the Okanagan and Similkameen or tothe small islands of Garry oak meadow around

Victoria. The elimination of grasslands for agri-culture and housing, particularly at low andmedium elevations in the southern valleys, hasprobably reduced populations of some flies.Overgrazing by cattle, disturbance by vehicles,and introduced weeds in many remaininggrasslands may have a negative effect on popu-lations, but no studies have been undertaken toshow this. Some overgrazed sites, such as thisone at Chopaka, seem to support dense andhealthy populations of certain species.

Megaphorus is a fuzzy, yellow little fly; itlooks just like a leaf-cutter bee as it hoversaround the grassland flowers. This mimicry ofbees and wasps is not unusual in robber flies.Some entomologists believe that a resemblanceto its prey might allow such a robber fly toapproach its dinner without warning it off;indeed, Megaphorus usually attacks small beesand wasps. But there is little evidence for thistheory; most robber flies eat a wide variety ofprey that doesn’t resemble them in the least.Most people think that this mimicry of stinginginsects (which is found in many different ordersof insects) protects the copy-cat from otherpredators who recognize that bees, wasps andtheir kin can be dangerous. In the pines and firsjust above the grasslands here live severalspecies of robber flies called Laphria—fre-quently they wander out into the grassland. Ittakes practice to tell them from bumble bees,because many are big, fat, and densely clothedin various combinations of black, yellow andred hair.

Several species of white-tailed Efferia buzzeverywhere. A couple even land on my leg—notto worry…despite their fierceness to other

insects, robber flies are harmless to humans,although you can get jabbed if you grab one.Females probe cracks in the soil with sword-likeabdomens, searching for the best places to layeggs; others insert eggs in the dried flowerheads of grasses. Robber flies develop in the soilor in rotting wood, where larvae eat the imma-ture stages of other insects.

In the huge insect order Diptera (true flies),the family Asilidae contains over 6700described species worldwide. Although in NorthAmerica robber flies are predominantly south-ern in distribution, especially diverse in dryenvironments, British Columbia has its share.From seashores to grasslands to subalpineforests and meadows, the province’s myriad ofhabitats support about 120 species, nearly 60%of the Canadian fauna. About 40 species live inBritish Columbia grasslands and more wanderin from nearby woods.

Like other organisms, some robber flies pre-fer specific grassland habitats with a particularcombination of elevation, soil type and vegeta-tion composition and structure; others are morewidespread across different grassland types. Forexample, Myelaphus lobicornis is known fromonly two places in the province, one atPenticton, the other at Dutch Creek in the RockyMountain Trench. At these spots it flies onlyaround common rabbit-brush (Chrysothamnusnauseous) in June. With its almost hairless body,dark head, thorax and wings, elongate antennae,red abdomen and yellow legs, it really resemblesa wasp. Much more common, Cyrtopogon willis-toni flies abundantly among the blooming bal-samroot in mesic grasslands. The male dances

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One of the challenges of managing grasslands is under-standing the basic principles of grass growth and plantresponse to grazing (defoliation), and applying theseconcepts to the bigger picture of range management.Unfortunately this is not a straightforward topic as the

effects of defoliation are complex and do not onlyinvolve individual plant responses but also responseson a grassland community level. This article

summarizes some of the key points in terms ofgrass response to grazing and shows

how we can link these to managementpractices.

To understand how defolia-tion impacts grass growth wemust first understand how

grasses grow. The basic unit ofa grass plant is a phytomer, which

consists of a blade, sheath, node,internode, and axillary bud. A series of

phytomers make up a tiller, and anassemblage of tillers make up a grassplant.

The stage of growth that a grass is inalso impacts how it will respond to defo-liation. When a grass is in the vegetativestate (has not yet headed out or set seed)there is no true stem, it is instead a col-lection of leaf blades and sheaths rolledtogether. At the base of each tiller is agrowing point referred to as the apicalmeristem (or apical dome) and new leafgrowth occurs on opposite sides of thispoint. At the base of each leaf is also abud (axillary bud) that may grow into anew tiller. These points are all close tothe ground and are usually not disturbedby normal grazing. When a grassbecomes reproductive the apical meris-tem converts from forming new leaves toforming floral structures. When thischange occurs the apical meristem

becomes elevated, the internodes elongate to form a truestem, and no new leaves can be formed on that tiller. Soto simplify this, if a grass is grazed while it is vegetativeit can grow new material from the axillary buds at thebase of each leaf, but if it is grazed once it is reproduc-tive it will no longer produce new material from thesebuds.

Another factor that impacts how grass plants respond

to grazing is how they store and use carbohy-drates. Plants are able tophotosynthesize andconvert energy from thesunlight and store this ascarbohydrates, which theycan then access for contin-ued growth. If a plant is defo-liated it can draw on these car-bohydrate reserves to help supportnew growth. In order to photosynthe-size, plants need green leaf material andgrazing can remove some of this material.Also, to regrow after grazing the plant must draw oncarbohydrate reserves, and continued grazing withoutgiving the plant a chance to restore these reserves throughphotosynthesis can stress the plant. You can think of thisas a battery: if the battery is continually drained withoutbeing given an opportunity to recharge, it will eventuallygo dead.

Now that we have covered how grasses grow and howthey store energy, we can tie this back into our originalquestion of how grasses respond to defoliation. In a nut-shell, grass plants are well designed to deal with defolia-tion because the location of their growing points close tothe ground means that they can continue to grow leaves ifupper leaf material is removed. As well, their ability to store carbohydrates also helps to give the plant energy togrow new leaves if defoliation occurs. Grass plants mayalso have different avoidance and tolerance mechanismsthat help them to deal with defoliation. Avoidance mech-anisms, such as spikes and awns, help to reduce theprobability of grazing while tolerance mechanisms, suchas carbon allocation and leaf replacement potential, helpto increase growth following grazing. Some plants mayexhibit both avoidance and tolerance mechanisms andthis can give them a competitive advantage in the plantcommunity when it comes to defoliation.

So what does all of this mean in terms of range man-agement? Knowing how a grass responds to grazing canhelp us to minimize any negative impacts by adjustingthe intensity (amount of vegetation removed), frequency(how often the plant is defoliated), timing (when in theseason the plant is defoliated) and duration (how longanimals are left in an area) of grazing. For example, ifboth the grazing intensity and frequency are high wecould have the draining of the battery analogy occur-ring. One other factor to keep in mind is the type of ani-

axillary buds at thebase of each leaf





Extension note—the effects of defoliationWendy Gardner, Professor of Range Ecology, University College of the Cariboo

Page 17: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

mal that is being managed as plant selectionand grazing impacts vary by species.

So although this is a complex subject,understanding even some of the basic con-cepts of grass growth can help us to alter ourmanagement and keep our grasslands healthyand productive.

Wendy Gardner is an Assistant Professor in theNatural Resource Science Department at theUniversity College of the Cariboo in Kamloops.She completed her MSc (UBC) in animalnutrition and is currently working on finishingher PhD (U of A) on range use of reclaimedmine tailings areas. You can reach Wendy [email protected]


Bittman, S.,Schmidt, O. and Cramer, T.N. 1999.Advanced Forage Management. Available online athttp://www.farmwest.com/library/bookindex.cfm?bookid=1

Heitschmidt, R.K. and Stuth, J.W. 1991. GrazingManagement: an Ecological Perspective. Availableonline at http://cnrit.tamu.edu/rlem/textbook/textbook-fr.html

Langer, R.H.M. 1972. How Grasses Grow. EdwardArnold (Publishers) Ltd. London. 60pp.

In 2000, the Real Estate Foundation of

British Columbia made its first grant to the

Grasslands Conservation Council for the

Sustaining Healthy Grasslands symposium.

From the beginning, it was clear that the

GCC and the Foundation shared a similar

objective: Involving all interested parties

in an important land use issue for the

purpose of education and policy reform.

More specifically, we liked the fact that

the GCC planned to bring together

stakeholders to discuss key issues of

grassland management, with the ultimate

goal of developing a provincial strategy

for grassland conservation.

The Foundation has made three grants

totaling $50,000 to the Grasslands

Conservation Council. In 2000 and 2001

our Board of Governors approved two

grants of $5,000 each for GCC public

education projects (the second was for the

“Threats to Grasslands—Subdivision and

Development” issue of BC Grasslands).

Then, in 2002, we made a grant of $40,000

for the BC Grasslands Mapping Project.

This project is larger in scope and has the

potential to influence grasslands

management far into the future.

The Real Estate Foundation has a broad

mandate to support non-profit real estate

related research, education, law reform

and “good works” projects throughout the

province. Our goal is to enable responsible

land use and real estate practices for the

benefit of all British Columbians. As such,

the Foundation makes grants for

initiatives related to non-profit housing,

community planning, land and water

stewardship, buying and selling a home,

and many other issues of importance to

residents of BC. Our grant making is

organized into four themes: Environment

& Land Use, Housing & Finance, Real

Estate Industry Excellence, and Real Estate

& Land Use Information for Communities.

To date, GCC projects have come under the

Environment & Land Use theme. Our

funding priority for this theme is projects

that emphasize the governance aspects of

sustainable land use practices. This means

that grant applicants must define the

conservation values that their projects

address in the context of relevant land use

planning, policy and regulation.

Over the past couple of years, the

“governance” focus has become the Real

Estate Foundation’s niche. We recognize

the value of research, education, and

restoration. We also know that well

thought-out and implemented regulations

can go a long way to support enlightened

land use decisions. In fact, one without the

others will not have lasting effects.

Threatened and endangered ecosystems

have gained their status because of the

impact of human activities. This is why

most Foundation grants are made in areas

where property development is adversely

affecting the integrity of natural systems.

Interior grasslands, coastal Garry oak

meadows, deserts of the south Okanagan,

and environmentally sensitive areas

adjacent to streams in many BC regions all

receive Real Estate Foundation support.

We are pleased to be able to partner with

organizations that share our interest in

enabling more responsible land use, and

wish the Grasslands Conservation Council

success in its efforts to help landowners

and managers, and the general public to

become better stewards of the land.

To learn more about the Real Estate

Foundation, visit


Conservation partner profile: The Real Estate Foundation of BC

Celina Owen, Real Estate Foundation of BC

17 www.bcgrasslands.org

apical meristem nearground level

Grass Tiller—Vegetative

Page 18: BC Grasslands Fall 2003


In June, the Grasslands Conservation Council ofBritish Columbia (GCC) headed into Cariboocountry for its annual meeting and HealthyGrasslands Workshop.

“Back to our GRASSroots” brought together awide range of grassland enthusiasts eager tolearn more about grassland health and workinggrasslands, and included representatives fromthe ranching community, First Nations, govern-ment and conservation organizations. The four-day event was hosted out of Big Bar GuestRanch, just west of Clinton.

After a well-attended annual meeting, the 80or so workshop participants headed out to theChurn Creek Protected Area. During the morn-ing session, smaller groups partook in threediscussion sessions intended to give partici-pants the tools to understand basic grasslandecology. The sessions included grasslandwildlife, vegetation and microbiotic communi-ties, and soils and hydrology.

Following the morning session, Joyce Holmes,co-owner of J&J Cattle Company, spoke onranching history and range management withinthe protected area.

Joyce and her husband John ranch within theChurn Creek Protected Area at Empire ValleyRanch. It’s a unique situation as they don’t actu-ally own any of the land they graze their cattleon. Empire Valley has a ranching history goingback to the 1860s and it was purchased by theprovincial government in 1998 for inclusion inChurn Creek PA. Since that time, the Holmeswere awarded a 10-year grazing lease to runcattle in the Churn within the guidelines set outin the Churn Creek PA Management Plan.

Joyce says she loves the land in the Cariboo,and ranching within the Protected Area—although posing some unique managementchallenges—is rewarding and viable.

To round out the morning session and Joyce’spresentation on ranching in the Churn, partici-pants learned about the effects of defoliationfrom Wendy Gardner, a professor in the NaturalResource Science Program at the UniversityCollege of the Cariboo. Gardner explained thedefoliation process and how grasses respond tograzing. This set the stage for the afternooninterpretive hike where participants were invit-ed to walk the landscape and incorporate whatthey had learned to assess grassland health.

Friday’s presentations anddiscussion sessions providedparticipants with the knowledgeand interpretive skills to under-stand the basic ecology of grass-lands in conjunction with cattlegrazing and range management.

Saturday morning everyonegathered early for a presentationby Bruno Delesalle, executivedirector of the GCC. He spokeabout the diversity of BC’s grass-lands, the importance of grass-land stewardship, and some ofthe key GCC initiatives currentlyunderway to achieve the long-term conserva-tion of our grasslands.

Several GCC board members recounted thebeginnings of the GCC at Big Bar in 1996, urg-ing those in attendance to engage in the pursuitto achieve healthy, sustainable grasslands inBritish Columbia.

Then, it was time to head back onto therange, namely the historic OK Ranch, a largecow-calf operation that encompasses nearly15,000 acres of deeded land. Owner LawrenceJoiner was a gracious host.

The “working grasslands” tour began with astop at a range exclosure where recovery ratesare being monitored. Here, participants dis-cussed range reference areas, forest encroach-ment and the impacts of irresponsible off roadvehicles.

The site is also home to a badger burrow andecosystem officer Roger Packham enlightenedparticipants on the emergence of badger bur-rows in the Cariboo region and the great pres-sure these red-listed mammals are under forsurvival.

Following this stop, the group headed over toa biosolids test site. Joiner is currently experi-menting with biosolids applications on hisdeeded grasslands in order to increase yields,boost protein and extend the growing season.Biosolids are produced from five wastewatertreatment plants in the Greater VancouverRegional District. Once produced, the materialis shipped to several ranches in BC’s Interiorgrasslands, including Joiner’s OK Ranch.

In addition to the biosolids test site, work-shop participants visited a biosolids research

site, one of four sites on OK Ranch that will bemonitored over the next five years by Ministryof Forests and Agriculture Canada to addressthe question of possible plant species shiftsassociated with one-time biosolids applications.

For lunch, the workshop convoy stopped onan island of Crown range in the midst ofJoiner’s deeded land and heard an historicalaccount of OK Ranch by Joiner and a presenta-tion on sharp-tailed grouse and forestencroachment by biologist Ernest Leupin of theColumbian Sharp-tailed Grouse StewardshipProgram.

The last stop of the day included an informa-tive presentation on photopoint transects andgrassland monitoring by Jim White ofRangeland Associates. Jim walked participantsthrough an example of a less-intensive monitor-ing method that ranchers could adopt for theirown purposes.

The Healthy Grasslands Workshop providedanother important opportunity for stakeholdersto discuss important grassland issues in thegrasslands. It was an opportunity for us toreturn to the land we care so much about to re-discover our common ground and chart ourfuture for the conservation and stewardship ofgrasslands in BC.

An educational summary package is nowavailable on the GCC website. It includes speak-ers’ summaries, maps and general information

Grassland enthusiasts head back to their “GRASS”rootsTaylor Zeeg, Communication and Extension Co-ordinator, Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia

Rancher Lawrence Joiner had a captiveaudience when he hosted participants of theGCC’s annual workshop at the historic OKRanch. PHOTO BY JEN LASHEK

Page 19: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

The intent of this process is to build on existingmethodologies to provide a tool for ranchers thatis consistent with provincial requirements and thatallows ranchers to collect information from year toyear to assess grassland ecological condition andtrend over time. It is also the intent of this projectnot to replace existing government methodologiesfor monitoring, or to interfere with existing pro-grams.

The Hamilton Commonage GrasslandMonitoring Project is about filling an importantprovincial need: To test and provide an opera-tionally tested qualitative grassland monitoringtool for ranchers. The end product of this processwill be a grassland monitoring manual for BritishColumbia’s ranching community.

As support for this initiative continues to build,we are confident that the GCC is the appropriateorganization to complete this collaborative pro-cess. We will continue to bring together ranchers,the BC Cattlemen’s Association and other organi-zations—representing a wide variety of expertiseand experience—to develop a much-needed con-sistent approach for monitoring grasslands.

Further to monitoring, the GCC has two otherkey initiatives under the Grassland Stewardshipand Sustainable Ranching Program, namely:Coordinating and facilitating the Off Road VehicleManagement Strategy, and facilitating the develop-ment of Best Management Practices for the com-mercial recreational sector. For more informationon these initiatives, please refer to page 25.

There is no doubt the GCC is taking on someimportant challenges.

on Cariboo grasslands. For information, pleasevisit the Workshop page on the GCC websitewww.bcgrasslands.org

Taylor Zeeg is the communications and extensionco-ordinator with the GCC. You can reach him [email protected] or (250) 374-5787.

Thank you to the following sponsors for supportingthe June 2003 Healthy Grasslands Workshop:• Parks Canada• Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC• Purity Feed Co. Ltd.• Dow AgroSciences• Miller Springs• Budget Car and Truck Rental

Message from the Executive Directorfrom page 3

19 www.bcgrasslands.org

Other grassland conservation initiatives Canadian Intermountain Joint Venture The GCC has full representation on the Board of Directors and TechnicalCommittee levels of the Canadian Intermountain Joint Venture (CIJV). The CIJVis a partnership of government agencies, non-governmental conservationorganizations, universities and industry working together to ensure that the

Intermountain region continues to be a landscape that supports healthy populations ofbirds, maintains biodiversity and fosters sustainable resource use. The CIJV is explicitlylinked to national and international efforts under the North American Bird ConservationInitiative and the GCC is doing its part to help develop biological objectives for populationsand habitats of focal species, particularly grassland bird species. This habitat-based conser-vation approach will guide the CIJV in managing a landscape that can support entire com-munities of birds and other organisms. For more information contact Krista De Groot at604-940-4684 or [email protected]

South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation ProgramAs a partner in the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Partnership,the GCC has been actively seeking a GCC Director to participate in the part-nership. We will continue to seek a representative for this initiative, as well asremain a partner with the SOSCP. The low elevations of the Okanagan and

Similkameen river valleys, whose dry climate and desert-like habitats are a northern exten-sion of the western American deserts, exhibit one of Canada’s greatest concentrations ofspecies diversity. This national treasure of biodiversity is of international importance and isincreasingly being threatened by human-created pressures. This area, with some of thegreatest concentrations of species at risk in Canada, is recognized as one of the country’smost endangered natural systems. The South Okanagan-Similkameen ConservationProgram has been developed to focus conservation efforts to maintain this natural systemand the great variety of plant and animal species that exist within it. The ConservationProgram seeks strong community support and involvement to help find a balance betweenwildlife requirements and human needs and aspirations. For more information, contactSOSCP Program Manager Robert Hawes at (250) 490-8225 or [email protected]

East Kootenay Conservation ProgramThe GCC is engaged as a partner in the East Kootenay ConservationProgram. The GCC has secured representation by a GCC Director forthis important initiative. The GCC will continue to participate in the

Partnership. The EKCP was created in response to the need for having better co-ordinationand unison on the issues that face the East Kootenay in regard to private land stewardshipand conservation. It is the EKCP’s vision to have landscapes that sustain biological diversityand ecological processes, support economic and social well being, and have communitiesthat demonstrate the principles of environmental stewardship for future generations in theEast Kootenay. The EKCP has developed a prospectus and is hosting a one-day workshop forall those interested in conserving the working landscape in the East Kootenay on November15, 2003 in Fernie, BC. For more information, contact EKCP Program Manager, Darrell Smithat (250) 342-3655 or [email protected]

Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Stewardship ProgramThe Grasslands Conservation Council of BC is an active partner of theColumbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Stewardship Program. This program,sponsored by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, has as its mainobjective the restoration of grassland integrity so that sharptails and

other grassland species will continue to persist in one of our most endangered ecosystems.In its first year, this program has thus far restored in excess of 20 hectares of grasslands andhas developed trusting relationships with landowners to develop economically and ecologi-cally sustainable management practices that will benefit livestock and wildlife alike.

Columbian Sharp-tailed GrouseStewardship Program

Page 20: BC Grasslands Fall 2003


Each year in June, GCC staff, members and board mem-bers all gather for the annual general meeting to reflecton the past year’s success and chart course for theupcoming year. As the guiding body of the GCC, theBoard of Directors takes this opportunity to replacedeparting board members with fresh faces.

Kristi Iverson filled the GCC chair position for oneyear and is stepping down but remaining on theExecutive. Kristi volunteered countless hours as chairand the GCC wouldn’t have made near as much progresswithout her.

Replacing Kristi as chair is Maurice Hansen, a semi-retired cattle rancher and co-ordinator for the RockyMountain Trench Natural Resources Society. Maurice, along-standing board member and past GCC vice-chair,brings a great deal of experience and a fresh, philosophi-cal outlook to the GCC.

Filling Maurice’s role as vice-chair is Ordell Steen, arelatively new board member. Ordell spent many years asa research ecologist for Ministry of Forests and brings alifetime of knowledge of grasslands with him.

Remaining in the treasurer’s role is Judy Guichon, acattle rancher in Quilchena, BC. Judy did a tremendousjob as treasurer and Executive board member this past

year and her continued presence is appreciated and nec-essary.

Nichola Walkden stepped down as secretary, but gra-ciously agreed to remain on the board. Replacing her isBob Scheer, a long-standing board member and newaddition to the GCC Executive.

Remaining on the Executive committee are DennisLloyd, Jim White, Cindy Haddow and Kristi Iverson. Allof these board members donate an enormous amount oftime and energy to making the GCC a successful organi-zation and deserve a most sincere thank you.

Leaving the GCC Executive and Board of Directors areDr. Michael Pitt and Bill Turner. Both men were foundingmembers of the GCC and assisted greatly throughout theorganization’s infancy. Thank you Michael and Bill foryour hard work and dedication.

New to the Executive committee, but long-standingboard members are Ian Barnett and Wendy Gardner,both of Kamloops, BC.

Other remaining Board members include: KatherineGizikoff, Darrell Smith, Greg Tegart, Bob Peart.

New to the GCC Board of Directors are LeanneColombo and Mike Duffy. Welcome aboard!

The Grassland Conservation Council (GCC),the University College of the Cariboo(UCC), and Don and Maureen Bennett areworking together to get students out in thefield. Don and Maureen Bennett own aquarter section of land in the Knutsfordarea and have offered students from theNatural Resource Science program at UCCto use it as a field site for data collectionand field trips. All parties are also workingtowards developing a management plan forthe site so that it can be used as a demon-

stration site for different range management practices.The range ecology students from UCC already partici-pated in a field site visit last spring, and plans are in theworks to have the students become more involved withother projects on the site in the future. The opportunityfor students to collect a long-term data set from one siteand also be involved in some of the management plan-ning aspects greatly enhances their learning experienceand develops better future resource managers.

Fresh faces and old friends on the GCC Board of Directors

Knutsford landowners offer land forgrassland research and stewardship

M E M B E R S ’ C O R N E R

UCC range ecologystudents gather around todetermine species coverand learn about monitoringtechniques at Don andMaureen Bennett’s quartersection in Knutsford, BC.PHOTO BY PEGGY BROAD

Call for MembersAs a GCC member, you are the driving force

behind much of the Council’s success. For this

reason, we need your help in attracting new

members to our small but growing team so

that we can continue to provide a strong

voice for grasslands in British Columbia.

Currently, the GCC has more members and

donors than we’ve ever had. We think this is

great, but we’re setting our sights even

higher! Join in the effort to conserve BC’s

precious grasslands by joining the GCC today.

If you’ve already joined, pass your

membership coupon on to a friend.

Page 21: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

21 www.bcgrasslands.org

Students are back in session at the University College of the Cariboo (UCC)and the UCC Range Club is gearing up for another event-filled year.

The Range Club is coordinated by UCC instructors Wendy Gardner andPeggy Broad, both from the Natural Resource Science Program, and is opento all students interested in learning more about range.

This year the students from the Range Club will be studying both plantidentification and range management principles to get ready for the plantidentification competition and the undergraduate range managementexam that will be held as part of the International Society for RangeManagement meetings.

This year the conference will be held in January in Salt Lake City, Utah.Students are also busy raising funds to help cover trip costs. A fresh batchof “BC Grass is Best” t-shirts will be available this month and anyone interested in ordering one can contact Wendy Gardner at [email protected]

UCC Range Club back in thesaddle

The UCC Range Club en route to an internationalplant identification competition at the 56th AnnualSociety of Range Management Conference held inCasper, Wyoming last February. PHOTO BY PEGGY BROAD

Imagine opening the gate to yourbackyard and having it filledwith meadowlarks, mariposalilies, monarch butterflies, innu-merable bugs, and the occasionalbear or coyote. Keira Geiger’s(age 6) backyard is such a place,as her house sits on the edge ofLac du Bois Grasslands ProtectedArea in Kamloops.

As with any great treasure,Keira is keen to show her friends.Last year the perfect opportunitypresented itself when theGrasslands Conservation Counciland partners unveiled a three-panel sign introducing visitors tothe park. To ensure that this signand kiosk continue to present aneffective introduction to the

park, Keira has become the sign’s caretaker. This entails monthlywashings and the occasional clearing away of weeds and debris. Ittakes her about 15 to 30 minutes each month or as the need arises.The sign is a short five-minute walk for Keira and her dad fromtheir house. Her father strongly believes that this is a “great way forKeira to play a small part in environmental stewardship.”

The signs are situated at kilometre zero of Lac du Bois Road innorthwest Kamloops where they introduce thousands of people ayear to hiking, biking or an incredible drive through a compellinglandscape. Visitors travel from open grassland, to aspen stands andend up in dense fir, pine and spruce forests over a short 20 kilome-tre drive—certainly a short trip that is well worth it when visitingKamloops.

From the age of 5, when her family moved up to the grasslands,Kiera has enjoyed each of the grassland seasons. Meadowlarks inspring; butterflies, bugs and mariposa lilies in early summer; thesmell of sage after a rainfall; the vibrant colors of blooming rabbitbrush at the end of summer, and the small rodents that maketracks in the winter. According to Keira there is “some pretty coolstuff ” to see all year. Her favorites are “finding frogs up at Lac duBois lake and enjoying the wildflowers and butterflies.” She eventells her friends not to pick the mariposa lilies (since it can kill theplant) and that the buttercups can cause allergic reactions. She haslearned these little gems from the book Plants of the SouthernInterior.

Keira enjoys the small part she can play in helping others under-stand her “backyard.” She plans to pass her skills and love for thegrasslands on to her younger sister and to all her young friendswho come up to her house.

Grassland “treasure” has a new caretakerDwayne Geiger

GCC Annual Event – 2004 In keeping with tradition, the GCC will hold its

Annual General Meeting and field tour in June. This is a great

opportunity for members and grassland enthusiasts to

come out and participate in the AGM and then learn

about grasslands in the field.

In addition, the GCC will organize a provincial symposium

that will focus on the findings of the Subdivision and

Development problem analysis currently being developed.

Stay tuned to the GCC website for updates on these events.

For more information contact the GCC at

[email protected] or phone (250) 374-5787.

Mark your calendar. We look forward to seeing you there!

Keira Geiger stands in front ofthe “biodiversity” panel of theLac du Bois educational signs.Keira is custodian of the signs,ensuring they are clean and thearea is free of weeds and litter.PHOTO BY DWAYNE GEIGER

Page 22: BC Grasslands Fall 2003



BC Grasslands Website growing!“Understanding Grasslands,” an ecologicaloverview of grasslands in BC, and “Where are BC’s Grasslands?,” the maps of the BCGrasslands Mapping Project and associated sta-tistics, are expected to be on the BC GrasslandsWebsite this fall.

These two extension initiatives will help raisethe profile of grasslands in BC, educate websitevisitors about the abundance and diversity ofgrasslands, and complement the other steward-ship components of the BC Grasslands Website.

Upcoming this year is the addition of a newcomponent,“Sustainable Range Management,”intended to inform and educate visitors aboutissues pertaining to range management inBritish Columbia. Keep checking www.bcgrass-lands.org for updates and new additions.

Thank you to the following partners for sup-porting the GCC website development:Beef Cattle Industry Development Fund;Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection;Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management;Ministry of Forests; Conservation Data Centre;and Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.

GCC working with educatorson grassland curriculumThe GCC is assisting a contractor from the BC Conservation Foundation to complete ateachers’ resource book on the Interior grass-lands that can be used by the elementaryschools in Kamloops. The focus will be on pro-viding the teacher with basic information aboutthe grasslands, instructional strategies, studentactivities and class projects that will promoteresponsible stewardship of the grasslands. Thevarious activities and resources will be linked tocurriculum goals and prescribed learning out-comes. The geographic focus will be on KennaCartwright Park, Lac du Bois GrasslandsProtected Area and the “wild” areas in theKamloops valleys.

The GCC, as a partner in this initiative, isproviding text from the “UnderstandingGrasslands” initiative, maps, and expertise asparticipants on the review panel for the project.

Back to our GRASSroots:Educational summary package With the many grassland experts speaking atthis year’s Healthy Grasslands Workshop, we feltit was important to capture their wisdom and

perspectives on grassland management. As pro-ceedings for this year’s event, we have developedan educational summary package. The docu-ment includes speakers’ summaries, maps, andinformation on Churn Creek Protected Area,OK Ranch and Cariboo grasslands in general.

Visit the GCC website, under Programs andProjects / Workshops to download theEducational Summary for your next trip out tothe Cariboo grasslands!

Thank you to the following sponsors of thisyear’s Healthy Grasslands Workshop:• Parks Canada• Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society–BC• Purity Feed Co. Ltd.• Dow AgroSciences• Miller Springs• Budget Car and Truck Rental

GCC Annual Report on lineThe April 2002 Annual Report is now availableon line at www.bcgrasslands.org. This includesreporting on GCC projects, financial reports, alist of funding organizations and donors(including members) and other general infor-mation about the GCC’s progress in 2002–2003fiscal year. Hard copies are also available uponrequest at [email protected]

GCC finalizes strategic vision for next five years

UPDATE: Education and Outreach Program

The GCC 2003 to 2008 Strategic Plan is nowfinalized and available on the GCC website(www.bcgrasslands.org). This strategy docu-ment will provide GCC staff and the Board ofDirectors with direction for the next phase ofGCC growth.

At a time when so many issues are facing usin the conservation and stewardship of ourgrasslands, it is important to have a documentthat aligns the goals and objectives of the GCCwith future and ongoing activities.

The GCC Strategic Plan provides an integrat-ed plan for the following three program areas:Education and Outreach, Grassland Stewardshipand Sustainable Ranching, and Conservation ofGrassland Ecosystems.

The Education and Outreach Program isintended to increase awareness, understandingand appreciation of the ecological, social, eco-

nomic and cultural importance of BritishColumbia’s grasslands among a wide range ofindividuals and organizations, and to ensurethat this knowledge is applied through behav-iour change on the ground.

Grasslands Stewardship is a set of strategiesand practices that will be implemented toensure the long-term health and integrity of thegrassland landscape. Stewardship impliesunderstanding, caring for, and maintaining awide range of values, including those related tograzing. Stewardship is consistent with sustain-able use—it does not mean preservation orprotection from human use.

Sustainable Ranching involves domestic ani-mal grazing practices that maintain andenhance the economic and social viability of aranching operation while maintaining the eco-logical integrity of the grassland landscape on

which these operations depend.Through the third program area, Conserva-

tion of Grassland Ecosystems, the GCC will sup-port the designation and protection or specialmanagement of critical and representativegrassland ecosystems. The Conservation ofGrassland Ecosystems Program supports andstrengthens the Grassland Stewardship andSustainable Ranching Program to ensure thelong-term sustainability of grassland ecosys-tems throughout British Columbia.

The “Project Updates” section of BCGrasslands magazine will henceforth be organ-ized around these program areas, with projectscategorized in the relevant program area. Thesection will also include updates and informa-tion on GCC capacity building and fundraisingefforts. You can view the 2003–2008 StrategicPlan at www.bcgrasslands.org

Page 23: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

23 www.bcgrasslands.org

UPDATE: Grassland Stewardship and Sustainable Ranching ProgramHamilton Commonage:Assessing grassland ecologicalcondition and trend in BCIn 1998 the Hamilton CommonageDemonstration Project was initiated to bringtogether environmental organizations, govern-ment agencies, ranchers and the Guichon Ranchin a joint effort to develop a range managementstrategy for the northwest quarter of theHamilton Commonage that would maintain andenhance biological diversity and improve grass-land and riparian condition. In addition, theproject was to serve as a basis to review thestrengths and weaknesses of the BC ForestPractices Code Seral Stage Targets and RiparianGuidelines, as well as to review the range useplanning process. With the election of theLiberal government and a re-structuring of gov-ernment, the higher level goals for this projectbecame somewhat invalid.

However, much was accomplished during thefirst phase of this project. The HamiltonCommonage Demonstration Project completedthe following:• Developed a list of range management con-

cerns and identified management goals andpriorities, including: Increasing the abun-dance and distribution of late successionalstages in grassland and riparian systems,improving riparian condition, and establish-ing a long-term monitoring program.

• Completed inventory and mapping of wateravailability and quality; infrastructure(fences, water developments, roads, hydrolines, etc.); seral stage distribution; weeds;and recreational use; while partially complet-ing inventory and mapping of wildlife speciesof concern, riparian areas and assessments,and aspen copse locations and condition.

• Collaborated with the Guichon Ranch toincorporate newly acquired information intothe grazing plan for 1999 and 2000.

• Established four new exclosures (80 ha total)with electric fencing to begin addressingsome of the biological and habitat concernsaround aspen copses, wetlands and riparianareas.

• Established one new pasture with electricfencing east of Rush Lake that will be utilizedby cattle at only 20% of normal levels and

limited to fall grazing only. This exclosurewas established to evaluate rates of recoveryfrom partial grazing in comparison toabsolute cattle exclusion. Such a strategy mayprovide sufficient recovery for the land whilemaintaining some grazing.Upon completion of this first phase, the GCC

needed to assess the effectiveness of the projectand determine whether the changes in manage-ment were effectively moving towards betterdistribution of cattle grazing over the range andimproving grassland condition.

Over the past 18 months, the GCC and theproject team have re-examined the goals andobjectives of this project, launching phase two:The Hamilton Commonage GrasslandMonitoring Project. This project has two maingoals:1) To complete baseline monitoring on the

northwest quarter of the HamiltonCommonage to provide information andguidance for future changes in range man-agement. Establishing a baseline will enablethe rancher and the project team to assesscurrent range condition and monitor trendsover time. Long-term monitoring of the proj-ect site will assist the GCC and its partners togain knowledge about grassland ecosystems,their ecological succession and long-termsuccessional trends.

2) To develop and test a qualitative method forgrassland monitoring that is suitable andpractical for the ranching community, includ-ing a grassland monitoring manual for BC.The methodology will be based on existingmonitoring methodologies from BC, Albertaand the USA. The method will be tested oper-ationally by the ranching community and willbe tested in different geographic regions ofBC.

The objectives of this project are:1) Complete baseline monitoring of new exclo-

sures and continued monitoring of olderexclosures for the Hamilton Commonageproject site.

2) Assess the present ecological condition (orseral stage) of grasslands and grassland-associated ecosystems for the HamiltonCommonage project site.

3) Establish a broad technical advisory commit-tee that will guide the development of a qual-itative method for grassland monitoring.

4) Develop and test a method for grasslandmonitoring that is suitable and practical forthe ranching community.

5) Develop two or three pilot project sites inother regions of the province to furtherdevelop and test the methodology withranchers. This will ensure that the methodol-ogy is applicable and tested in other grass-land types and with other ranchers.

6) Develop a qualitative grassland monitoringmanual for BC that is based on existing mon-itoring methodologies, operationally testedby the ranching community and that is testedin different geographic areas of BC.

7) Organize a workshop for ranchers and rangemanagers to provide information on theeffective use of monitoring and to give train-ing on how to use the monitoring tools devel-oped.Guided by the Technical Advisory Committee,

the project team will develop and field test aselected qualitative model for assessing grass-land ecological condition, testing it against amore rigorous Daubenmire, or canopy cover,methodology. As part of the assessmentprocess, the project team will test two well-established methodologies, namely the“Rangeland Health Assessment” from Alberta

Consultant Sandra Wikeem seen heresampling plots at the HamiltonCommonage. Field monitoring can bechallenging but luckily Guichon steersare nearby for technical support. PHOTO BY BRIAN WIKEEM

For more information on GCC projects, please contact us at (250)374-5787 or e-mail: [email protected]

Page 24: BC Grasslands Fall 2003



(Adams, 2002/2003) and the “Rangeland HealthIndicators for Qualitative Assessment” (Pyke2002). The intent of this process is to build onexisting methodologies to provide a tool forranchers that is consistent with provincialrequirements and that will allow ranchers tocollect information from year to year to assessgrassland ecological condition and trend overtime. The project has completed the following:• A document that evaluates existing monitor-

ing information and methodologies for thenorthwest quarter of the HamiltonCommonage: “Working Towards a Long TermMonitoring Strategy for the NorthwestQuarter of the Hamilton Commonage–PhaseOne” November 2002;

• A comparison of qualitative methods to eval-uate rangeland ecological status;

• A monitoring plan to develop a qualitativeapproach for assessing grassland ecologicalcondition; and

• Field monitoring, summer 2003 This is a very timely and important collabo-

rative process, bringing a wide variety of organ-izations and industry together to resolve a criti-cal range management issue: Assessing the eco-logical condition of BC’s rangelands.

The following organizations support this ini-tiative: Ministry of Forests–Kamloops Region;Nicola Livestock Association; Gerard GuichonRanch Ltd.; Ministry of Water, Land and AirProtection; Ducks Unlimited Canada; Ministryof Agriculture, Food and Fisheries;Environment Canada; Canadian Parks andWilderness Society; The Land Conservancy ofBC; the University College of the Cariboo;Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; RockyMountain Trench Natural Resources Societyand the Society for Range Management.

Funders:• The McLean Foundation• The Brink/McLean Grassland Conservation

Fund• Agriculture Environment Partnership

Initiative• The Grazing Enhancement Program• Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection

Progress made on draftingprovince-wide invasive plantstrategySince May 2003 the Fraser Basin Council andthe Technical Working Group have made greatprogress in developing the first draft “Province-Wide Invasive Plant Strategy.”

Based on the Weeds Know No BoundariesSymposium in May 2002 and subsequent work-shops, the Fraser Basin Council is facilitatingthe development of a province-wide invasiveplant strategy for British Columbia.

The current goal is to have a revised draftready for an Advisory Committee meeting andworkshop October 3, 2003 at the Best WesternRichmond Hotel & Convention Centre inRichmond.

For more information, contact Gail Wallin,Regional Co-ordinator, Fraser Basin Council [email protected]

Off Road Vehicle campaignmaking great gains!The Coalition for the Licensing and Registrationof Off Road Vehicles (ORVs) is now fullyengaged in a consultation process that willresult in a clear, effective management strategyfor ORVs in British Columbia. The Coalition’sgoal is to provide the provincial governmentwith a cost effective and sustainable strategy forthe licensing and registration of all ORVs in BCand to provide the framework for effective man-agement of off road vehicles. This strategy willform an important building block for ORV asso-ciations to work with government, industry, andconservation groups around the province tobuild a sustainable future for recreation in BCand to protect grassland ecosystems.

The GCC is co-ordinating this effort; the GCCexecutive director is co-chair of the Coalition,along with the president of ATV/BC, the provin-cial organization for all terrain vehicles.Currently, the Coalition is comprised of the fol-lowing organizations:• Grasslands Conservation Council of British

Columbia• Quad Riders Association of British Columbia• Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC• Federation of BC Naturalists• Outdoor Recreation Council of British

Columbia• BC Cattlemen’s Association• Province of British Columbia Ministries of

Sustainable Resource Management; Water,Land and Air Protection; Agriculture, Foodand Fisheries; and Forests

• Greater Kamloops Motorcycle Association• Trails BC

The strategy document is expected to becomplete by July 2004, and presented to govern-ment in fall 2004 for spring 2005 reading in theBC legislature. For more information about thisinitiative, contact Taylor Zeeg at (250) 374-5787or [email protected]

Establishing strategicdirections: Mitigating thesubdivision and developmentof BC’s grasslandsThe loss of large natural grassland areas is duelargely to two main issues: Urban sprawl andfragmentation of rural landscapes. Urbansprawl has been noticed in cities surrounded bygrasslands such as Vernon, Kamloops,Penticton, Osoyoos and Oliver. These cities arecontinuing to see an influx of people movingthere for work, lifestyle and opportunity. Cityboundaries are encroaching onto grasslands,resulting in an increase in recreation, housingand consequently an alteration of grasslandecosystems.

The GCC is in the process of initiating aproblem analysis of this complex issue by work-ing with key stakeholders and conservationinterests to define the problem, solutions andpotential conservation tools that will assistranchers, government agencies, non-govern-ment organizations, and land managers inresponding to this growing threat to grasslands.We have secured some funds for this projectand are now in the process of raising morefunds and developing terms of reference for aconsultant.

The problem analysis will include an efficientand comprehensive consultation process thatwill culminate in a Sustaining HealthyGrasslands Symposium. The symposium willfocus on the role of regional and district-levelplanners and critically examine the issues sur-rounding urban and rural development and itseffect on grasslands. The symposium is tenta-tively scheduled for fall 2004.

Thank you to the McLean Foundation andMinistry of Water, Land and Air Protection forproviding the seed money to get this project offthe ground. Other funders are coming on board!

Page 25: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

25 www.bcgrasslands.org

BC Grasslands MappingProject—A Conservation RiskAssessmentThe GIS section of the Grasslands ConservationCouncil is pressing to complete the key remaining tasks in order to deliver on the BCGrasslands Conservation Risk Assessment byMarch 2004. Half way through the final year ofthe project, Ryan Holmes and Bruce Rea areworking hard on a number of fronts. A forestencroachment communication tool is beingdeveloped to illustrate, with aerial photography,changes in the grassland–forest interface over a50-year period. The goal of this exercise is tohave a snapshot of encroachment in differentgrassland regions of the province as well as todemonstrate the complexity of the encroach-ment issue in general. Secondly, a non-nativeinvasive plant mapping pilot is underway in theKamloops Forest District where the GCC isusing a broad, expert-based approach to deter-mine the distribution and extent of weed infes-tations on grassland and grassland associatedhabitats. A successful exercise in the KamloopsDistrict will pave the way for mapping in otherdistricts containing grasslands, such as Merritt,Okanagan–Shuswap, Cranbrook, 100 MileHouse and the Peace. The GCC is ensuring thatcommunication lines are open for weed map-ping and that key organizations, such as theFraser Basin Council, are aware of the proposedproducts and their values. Species at risk map-ping overlays are also part of the workplan forthis fourth and final year of the project. Red-and blue-listed grassland species sightings arebeing incorporated into the GIS in order for theGCC to demonstrate the value of grasslands for

endangered species. Finally, the GIS section isactively working on the development of a com-prehensive extension strategy for BC GrasslandsConservation Risk Assessment. This strategywill identify the issues, audiences and appropri-ate extension products for GCC partners as weall strive towards grasslands conservation, stew-ardship and restoration in British Columbia.The extension of GIS products is the mostimportant part of the project as the GCC looksto turn data into action.

Characterization of BC’s grasslandsThe GCC is working with Solterra ResourcesInc. to finalize the report on the characteriza-tion of BC’s grasslands. A tremendous amountof material has been compiled and synthesizedby Solterra in the production of this consolidat-ed ecological description for all the grasslandsand grassland-associated communities inBritish Columbia. Given the intended audiencefor this report and other considerations, theCharacterization Committee chose to revise theformat and structure prior to completion of thefinal draft. With this new direction, Solterra willbe producing final drafts for each of the grass-land regions covered in the report, such as theEast Kootenay Trench, Fraser Basin andThompson Basin.

The characterization report will be the mostup-to-date and comprehensive source for “one-stop” grasslands information in BC and will bea valuable resource for organizations and indi-viduals involved in grasslands education, com-munications, research, monitoring, conserva-tion and stewardship.

These two projects are funded by:

• Ministry of Forests• Ministry of Sustainable Resource

Management• Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection• Habitat Conservation Trust Fund• Vancouver Foundation• Wildlife Habitat Canada• Columbia Basin Trust• The Nature Trust of British Columbia• The Real Estate Foundation of British

Columbia• Lignum

Grassland Research Centre atthe University College of theCaribooThe University College of the Cariboo (UCC)continues discussion with the GCC and othergroups about the development of a GrasslandResearch Centre to be based in Kamloops, BC.Although a proposal was prepared and declinedfrom the Canadian Foundation for Innovation,the group is determined to keep the processgoing.

The goal is to continue strengthening theexisting proposal and to establish strong part-nerships with provincial and federal govern-ment, industry, First Nations, universities andcolleges across BC and Canada. Fundraising hasbeen initiated to raise $70,000 to hire a full-time person to continue developing the conceptand the proposal and to begin establishing keypartnerships to ensure this process comes tofruition.

This is an opportunity of a lifetime to buildwhat may become the only research institute of

UPDATE: Conservation of Grassland Ecosystems Program

Best Management Practices forgrasslandsThe Grasslands Conservation Council of BritishColumbia and BC Ministry of Water, Land andAir Protection are working with DovetailConsulting, AXYS Environmental Consultingand Judith Cullington and Associates to developstewardship guidelines for recreational activi-ties in BC’s Interior grasslands. These guide-lines—also known as Best ManagementPractices or BMPs—will identify ways in whichrecreational users can help to sustain healthy

grasslands while continuing to enjoy theiractivities.

Our focus is on:• Grasslands in the Thompson and Okanagan

Basins (Interior grasslands),• Commercial recreational activities (recogniz-

ing that many of the ideas will probably alsoapply to non-commercial activities), and

• Both motorized and non-motorized forms ofrecreation.This project fills an important need as it will

prepare a set of Best Management Practices that

will provide clear direction to grasslands users,such as individuals, clubs and commercial oper-ators, and habitat managers, on ways to mini-mize impacts on sensitive grassland ecosystemsand the species they support.

The development of BMPs will be largelyderived from the stakeholder workshop held inSeptember from which a draft set of Best Man-agement Practices will be developed. A final setof BMPs will be completed in the fall of 2003.

This project is funded by Ministry of Water,Land and Air Protection.

For more information on GCC projects, please contact us at (250)374-5787 or e-mail: [email protected]

Page 26: BC Grasslands Fall 2003



East Kootenay Conservation ProgramThe East Kootenay Conservation Program and partners will be hosting a workshop onNovember 15, in Fernie, BC, for all partners and any other interested organizations. The intentof the workshop is to provide a venue for partners to come together, share information andfurther strengthen the collaborative conservation effort underway in the East Kootenay.

The first half of the day will be geared towards updating the partners on the coordination ofeffort that has occurred to date, followed by a few presentations regarding conservation proj-ects underway in the region.

The second half of the day will focus on part of the EKCP mandate which is supportingcommunities that demonstrate principles of environmental stewardship. Guest speakers willprovide insight into the challenges facing local municipalities in balancing growth and conser-vation needs, and some possible solutions.

For more information contact Darrell Smith at (250) 342-3655 or [email protected]

Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Stewardship Program The Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Stewardship Program (see February 2003 issue) hasenjoyed overwhelming success during its first two years of existence. Thanks to organizationslike the GCC and many landowners, we have improved and protected critical winter habitat forsharptails and other species in grasslands near Kamloops, Merritt and Big Bar. Our next stepwill be to develop a Best Management Practices handbook that highlights management activi-ties that benefit sharp-tailed grouse, livestock, and of course grassland habitats. For moreinformation about the STG Stewardship program, contact Ernest Leupin at [email protected]

Gilpin Grasslands ReportDon Gayton, Ecosystem Management Specialist with the Forest Research ExtensionPartnership, recently completed a comprehensive review of the Gilpin Grasslands area nearGrand Forks. Completed on behalf of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, thereport examines a number of issues including grazing, weeds, and changes to the plant com-munity. The Gilpin is a unique grassland that is used by deer, elk and wild sheep as well as bydomestic livestock, in addition to being a popular local birding and hiking area. The report isavailable at http://www.bcgrasslands.org/library/stewardship.htm

South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation ProgramOn September 15th, 16th and 17th the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Programheld a series of meetings to address the major issues surrounding the conservation work ofthe program’s partners, teams members and recovery groups. The first day was dedicated todealing with the projects underway within the SOSCP area. The second day focused on theevents, plans and strategies of the steering committee members of the SOSCP and was animportant chance for the 32 partners to link their work together. The last day was a workshopdesigned to discuss the Species at Risk Act and the Landscape Recovery strategies for theSOSCP partners to work with and use to access future funding opportunities. For more infor-mation, contact Peter Ord, SOSCP Outreach Co-ordinator at [email protected]

its kind in Canada and one of the only rangeresearch and management centers in the PacificNorthwest.

Building our future The GCC realizes that building capacity as wellas ensuring a diversified and stable source offunding is critical to the continued developmentof the GCC and for the successful implementa-tion of its programs. Since inauguration inAugust 1999, the GCC has had very limited corefunding. The GCC relies on annual projectfunding to deliver its programs.

A stable, diversified funding base will enablethe GCC to strategically and effectively addressgrassland issues, build a strong awarenessabout BC’s endangered grasslands and continueto deliver key conservation and stewardship ini-tiatives on the ground. The future of BC’s grass-lands depends on a strong alliance of organiza-tions and individuals, collaboration, and thecapacity to deliver and ensure the conservationof BC’s Grasslands.

As part of this process, the GCC is hiring anew Development Officer to build on progressmade over the past few months developing ashort- and long-term fundraising strategy andbuilding our new donor and funder database.As the GCC initiates its second annual FallFundraising Campaign, we are seeking help forthis campaign.

If you would like to participate on the fund-raising committee or in any other way, pleasecontact Bruno Delesalle at (250) 374-5787 oremail [email protected].

Your help is not only appreciated, it is criticalto the success of the GCC.

This strategic approach to capacity buildingand fundraising would not be possible withoutthe support of The Bullitt Foundation. Thankyou!

Page 27: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

BC Grasslands Magazine

ISSN 1496-7839©Grasslands Conservation Council of

British Columbia

BC Grasslands is a bi-annualpublication of the GrasslandsConservation Council of BritishColumbia (GCC). BC Grasslands isintended to serve as a platform for informing readers about GCCactivities and other grasslandprograms across BC and Canada,as well as providing a forum ongrassland ecology, rangemanagement, grasslandconservation and stewardship.

BC Grasslands and the GCCwelcome submissions of letters,articles, story ideas, artwork andphotographs for each issue.Articles should be no longer than600 words (300 words for letters to the editor) and submitted aselectronic files (preferably MS Word 95 or newer).

BC Grasslands reserves theright to edit submissions for clarity and length. However, everyeffort will be made to work withcontributors to ensure contentremains unchanged. Deadline forsubmissions for the next issue of BC Grasslands is November 30,2003.

Contributions, comments and inquiries can be made to:BC GrasslandsGrasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia954A Laval CrescentKamloops, BC V2C 5P5Tel: (250) 374-5787 Fax: (250) 374-6287 E-mail: [email protected]

Magazine ProductionBruno DelesallePUBLISHER/WRITER



Funding for this issue ofBC Grasslands has been made possible through the generous support of the following organiza-tions:

• Ministry of Water, Land and AirProtection

• Vancouver Foundation• The Real Estate Foundation of BC• Ministry of Forests• Habitat Conservation Trust Fund

Cannings from page 15

Runkafrom page 9

on the plant’s broad leaves, signalling frantically toprospective mates using his silvery front legs and black,paddle-shaped middle ones. Far to the north, in sliversof grassland on scattered south-facing slopes near theYukon border, a couple of Beringian species, Lasiopogonprima and L. hinei, thrive. These are small grey or brownflies that hunt from the bare ground or from rocks andlogs. A close relative, Stichopogon fragilis, is a tiny silverspecies from sandy southern grasslands—the onlyCanadian specimen is from Osoyoos. At 3 mm long, it isour smallest robber fly.

Sunny and open, grasslands are great places to watchinsects. Robber flies are one of the most visible and fas-cinating groups of large invertebrates living in thesebeautiful habitats. Watch for them!

Rob Cannings is Curator of Entomology at the Royal BCMuseum. He grew up beside a Penticton grassland in afamily known across Canada for its contributions to natu-ral history and conservation in BC. He is the author or co-author of five books, including Birds of the OkanaganValley, British Columbia (1987) and Introducing theDragonflies of British Columbia and the Yukon (2002)and has written many scientific and popular articles,mostly on insects and birds. Rob studied under GeoffScudder at the University of BC for his MSc and receivedhis PhD in Insect Systematics from the University ofGuelph. He has also worked as a biologist and natureinterpreter in BC Parks and a lecturer and museum cura-tor at UBC.

infancy in BC and still too often falls between the cracks ofgovernment and non-government stewardship initiatives.

Survival of working ranches and grassland biodiversi-ty will depend on the cooperative efforts of all of us. Thecombination of the 39% of grasslands under privateownership (including almost all home ranches), the 9%on First Nations Reserves, and the 47% under Crowngrazing tenure must be considered as a whole and theecological/biodiversity characteristics of those grass-lands understood so that stewardship can be applied inpractical and meaningful ways.

Ranchers will need every stewardship tool available tothem in order to adapt to the changing economics of thebeef industry and the constantly shifting land usechange that will shape the future for BC’s grasslands. Inaddition, they will need full stewardship cooperation oftheir non-ranch grassland-owning neighbours, particu-larly for such issues as weed control and recreational

trespass.Nor are those living in urban communities devoid of

responsibility. All of us and all levels of governments thatrepresent us and are charged with making decisions inthe public interest need to understand and respond tothe threats facing BC’s grasslands. Here, the GrasslandsConservation Council of BC, with its broad cross-sectionof interests, is in a position to promote, oversee andcoordinate grassland stewardship from a holistic provin-cial perspective.

A shared grassland future—working ranches and bio-diversity conservation—is a must. Grassland interestsmust walk together to protect each others’ interests andthe public interest, this generation and future ones.

The way forward will be extremely complicated butworking ranches will have to be part of the solution if weare to retain grassland biodiversity.

Dedelsfrom page 13

Society for Range Management and the GrasslandConservation Council. Both groups have strived toincrease involvement from landowners and tenure hold-ers in order to transfer knowledge of grasslands andtheir management to the end user. We need to improvein this regard. Another objective of the SRM is “to createthe public appreciation of the economic and social bene-fits to be obtained from the range environment.” It is myhope that we can work towards that goal in partnership

with the GCC and other grassland groups around theprovince.

Mike Dedels has been a Range Agrologist at the KamloopsForest District for over 13 years. He graduated from UBCwith a BSc in Agriculture in 1983. Mike is currentlyPresident of the BC Chapter of the Pacific NorthwestSection of SRM, and can be reached [email protected]


Page 28: BC Grasslands Fall 2003

Artists’ Corner Thank YouThe GCC would like to thank the following funders fortheir generous support for the 2003–2004 fiscal year.

Program Funders Beef Cattle Industry Development Fund, Ministry ofWater, Land and Air Protection, Ministry of SustainableResource Management, Federation of BC Naturalists,Grazing Enhancement Program, Habitat ConservationTrust Fund, Ministry of Forests, The Real EstateFoundation of BC, Vancouver Foundation, Canadian Parksand Wilderness Society–BC, The McLean Foundation,The Bullitt Foundation, Brink McLean GrasslandConservation Fund , Greater Kamloops MotorcycleAssociation, Parks Canada, Quad Riders Association of BC, Regional District East Kootenay, Thompson Nicola Regional District, Trails Society of BC,Brainerd Foundation, Conservation Data Centre,Agriculture Environment Partnership Initiative,BC Cattlemen’s Association, Lignum Ltd., West CoastEnvironmental Law Association, Dow Agro Sciences,Purity Feed Co. Ltd., Kamloops Naturalist Club

And a Special Thanks to…• All GCC members and donors, whose continued sup-

port has helped make our programs a success• Ducks Unlimited for its generosity in providing afford-

able office space and giving the GCC an opportunity tocontinue its growth and development

• Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for all its support and assistance with GCC programs and fundraising

• Our many dedicated and hardworking volunteers whohave donated their time and energy to help the GCCgrow and prosper.

In the next issue of BC Grasslands…Grassland and Range Monitoring: From Theory to Practice

The February 2004 issue is timely as it will examine the

necessity of effective range monitoring for maintaining

long-term grassland health. This issue will examine

the challenges of balancing range science with the need

for practical approaches to monitoring grasslands

and assessing range health for ranchers, landowners

and resource managers. This issue will also explore

the current status and future needs for BC’s Range

Reference Areas and the importance of re-establishing

long-term scientific monitoring of BC’s grasslands in

all regions. This issue will examine the link between

an effective range reference areas program and the

provincial needs for results based management by

operators. We encourage submissions of both articles

and photos. The submission deadline is November 30,


For more information, please contact Taylor Zeeg at

[email protected]

Please send your submissions to: BC Grasslands,

954 A Laval Crescent, Kamloops, BC V2C 5P5

Tel: 250 374-5787

Fax:250 374-6287

E-mail: [email protected]


together for the

conservation of

BC’s grasslands

Ministry of Water, Land,and Air Protection

Thank you to the following sponsors for

helping the GCC deliver this important issue:

Nicole M. Brand Nicole M. Brand is an ecologist who hasbeen working in the Kamloops area since1994. She has been a part of numerousprojects involving ecosystem classification,silviculture research, and various wildlifestudies. In her spare time she enjoys dab-bling in the arts.“I love to mix the naturalworld with drawing, painting and pottery.A close look always reveals the incredibledetail, diversity and unique beauty thatnature has to offer.”

Liz Twan Liz Twan was born and raised a city girl.She met cowboy Bronc Twan and they mar-ried in 1978. Liz moved to the country. Shehas lived on the Alkali Lake Ranch all hermarried life; husband Bronc is the manag-er. They have two sons, Willee (21) andJesse (18), and both are avid rodeo com-

petitors along with their dad. Liz is rarelywithout a camera, either at home or at therodeo. Nature provides an endless source ofbeauty just waiting to be captured in theeye of her camera.

Call for ArtistsAs the GCC continues to grow, there is anever-present need for grassland artwork forour publications and communications proj-ects. Images can be drawings, photos orpaintings of your favourite grassland land-scapes or species. For all you ranchers outthere, we’d love to see some of your artworkportraying working grassland landscapes.Please contact our Communications andExtension Co-ordinator with your offer-ings, ideas and inspiration at (250) 374-5787 or [email protected]