Midpen Conservation Grazing Public Workshop Presentations, 12/17/19
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Midpen Conservation Grazing Public Workshop Presentations, 12/17/19

January 8, 2020

(silence) – [Lewis] All right you
guys, my name is Lewis Reed, I serve as the range
ecologist and botanist for Midpeninsula Regional Open Space, and I probably have the
funnest job tonight. I’ve been asked to come in here and give you guys a little
introduction and background on some basic grassland ecology and really hone in a
bit on the conservation significance of these grasslands that you guys have already
heard a little bit about. Talk about some of the challenges
in managing that diversity and some of the opportunities we have. And in particular, since this is the focus of the policy amendment, I’ll be talking a lot about our Conservation
Grazing Program. When we talk about
diversity, I like to take a few steps back, and I think this point has already been made,
but if you take a look at the map of the world here and think about places where
you find unique biodiversity, things that are found
nowhere else on the planet, places where you have high
levels of species richness or numbers of species
relative to the area, and places where that diversity might be under immediate threat by our activities, I’m sure you guys can all
picture a lot of places across this map and if we
take a look at another map, this was produced by, in cooperation with Conservation International, who sought to identify the
world’s biodiversity hotspots, where the top places we can
invest conservation effort to protect the world’s biodiversity, and this is the map that they produced. And the real take home I
want you to get from this is what Ana and Kirk have already emphasized, which is that California, the
California Floristic Province is a biodiversity
hotspot that’s recognized on a global scale and we all need to take that very seriously because
all of us, not just Midpen, but each of you here
are the primary stewards for one of the world’s
biodiversity hotspots. We have the most decision
making power over that on this global map. The second point I’ll make is that grasslands are a major
part of that biodiversity. And in fact, I think what you’ll see is that they represent a
disproportionate level of unique species in our environment. Look at this, look at
this coastal grassland in the background here. How many species per
square meter do you think are in that picture? I actually happened to
calculate that number one time. (people laughing) But if you’re not used to thinking about grasslands when you
think of biodiversity, maybe you’re used to thinking coral reefs and tropical rain forests,
here are a few examples. Animals like this western burrowing owl. A ground nesting owl that
lives in our grasslands. And they don’t dig their own burrows, they rely on the activity
of other animals, like this American badger. These are animals that occur
on District rangelands. And the list goes on, this
federally listed frog, even native amphibians that
occur in our grasslands. And a huge variety of plants,
this little viola down here that’s not actually a rare
species in and of itself, is the larval host plant to this listed Callippe
silverspot butterfly. So here’s a few examples, and the list goes on quite extensively. So, I care a lot about
that species richness, it’s a lot of what earns us the place on that biodiversity hotspot map, but we should also think
about the ecosystem services that those species collectively in their interactions with
the environment provide us. They provide a number of things
that enhance our well being. So I’ll go over a few examples here. And I’m thinking about how
these ecosystem services take place in our grasslands. We know that grasslands are a major part of terrestrial carbon cycling and in fact recent work out
of Benjamin Houlton’s lab at UC Davis indicates that
our grasslands are likely a more reliable and
stable storage of carbon in our landscape because they
store more of their carbon below ground, relative to
their woody counterparts. We know that forests
capture a lot of carbon, but they hold that carbon above ground where it’s vulnerable to combustion. I should mention too,
before I move on here, reference for some of that information are indicated with numbers here and at the end I’ll have
a list of references for folks who are
interested in tracking some of that information down. Grasslands are also critical
to our watershed function. They comprise a large
portion of our landscape. And so it’s not difficult to understand that the condition of these grasslands that support or sorry that
surround this reservoir in Contra Costa County
influence both the quantity and quality of water that
we’re able to capture and ultimately yield into
our municipal water supply. And there’s been a lot of recent work looking into how we can use livestock to enhance watershed function in grassland systems like this. And the last one that I’ll mention here, and believe me we could go on about this, but is just that these places also provide great habitat for us as humans, right? We live in one of the most
densely populated parts of the country and we need
to get outside sometimes too. And so whether you like
to hike or mountain bike, or walk your dog or ride a horse, don’t you love having
those wide open vistas that our grasslands provide and seeing those seasonal
wildflower blooms that you find there? So, a few examples of ecosystem service. I’m gonna shift gears here,
hopefully I’ve really drilled in the conservation significance
of these grasslands. We can talk about it more later. But it begs the question of
what are the biggest threats to these landscapes and I’m gonna go over a few points here, I think
the number one threat is large scale land conversion. Urban sprawl has covered up a lot of our historic grasslands. Intensive agriculture has covered up a lot of our historic grasslands. So that’s sort of the first step. And it’s something that
the district addresses very well by protecting
our preserves, right? But particularly in
the case of grasslands, just setting something
aside as a preserve, is not enough to protect
that biodiversity. Another big threat to grassland diversity is altered disturbance regimes. These systems evolved with
heavy grazing pressure of our Pleistocene megafauna with indigenous burning
practices that Kirk mentioned and so they’re very much
disturbance dependent communities. If we don’t have some
sort of disturbance regime on the landscape we can lose them through natural process of succession and there’s nothing wrong
with the woody systems that can replace these, but we don’t wanna
entirely lose grasslands from the landscape and without
those historic pressures we’re left to manage these
landscapes ourselves. And then the last thing that I’ll mention is just in California
in particular we have a high level of pressure
from invasive exotic species. Again, which requires active management. And sort of ongoing management. This grassland in the back, by the way, I don’t know if we have
any botanists in the room, but this is an incredible example of our native coastal prairie. These little grass stems that are bent over here are California oat grass, and those little rust colored
tops there is a western rush. This is a graze site just
south of Half Moon Bay. And at one time was proposed
to be a housing subdivision. Is fortunately now a preserve, protecting one of our nicest examples
of native coastal prairie. So, if we’re gonna take
care of this biodiversity that’s unique to these
grasslands, we have to think about what are our options
for being able to do that? How are we gonna create
the disturbance regime that maintain open landscapes
and how are we gonna manage species composition to maintain
that unique biodiversity? So, the first option
up here is do nothing, that’s always an option right? But I think we’ve
established that in the case of grassland conservation doing nothing is pretty much sentencing this diversity out of existence, right? If we do nothing, we’ll lose
these pieces of our landscape. But there are a variety of other tools that land managers use
to steward grasslands, things like mowing and
other mechanical treatments. The use of prescribed fire
continues to be a useful management tool in grasslands. Sometimes targeted use of herbicide and increasingly we’re learning
that we can use grazing or conservation grazing
to protect diversity in these landscapes. And really when you think about the scale that we’re managing in these grasslands, thousands of acres, grazing
sort of rises to the surface as maybe one of the
most reasonable options for being able to meet these objectives at a landscape scale. So, what do I mean when I
say conservation grazing? The real thing I wanna focus on here is that this is grazing with the aim of protecting natural resources, which is a little bit
different than just running a livestock production operation. I think there’s a lot of overlap, and I think many of our private lands provide a lot of those
same ecosystem services, but on district lands
we’re explicitly working with grazing partners to try
to meet our conservation goals. And to do that we have to choose, we have to do a lot of, we have to define a lot
of different variables. So what species of livestock do we use? People have asked well, why
don’t you just reintroduce tule elk to these lands? And I think that’s a really
interesting prospect, but I think it’s not a substitute for what we accomplish
with the grazing program. We can’t really manage a
free ranging herd of tule elk to meet specific conservation targets. And even within livestock,
different kinds of animals have different foraging preferences, different herding behaviors
that influence their outcome of their effect on the landscape. We have to decide how many
animals are out there, how long they’re out there, over what season they’re out there. And all these things
determine what the effect of grazing is gonna be
on the habitat structure. And we have to manage their dispersal so there’s a lot of
things we do like fencing off riparian areas, or providing
alternate water sources that attract animals to
areas where we’d like to have that influence. This picture in the background
is one of my favorite places to go see spring wildflowers. This is a preserve up in, this
is a Table Mountian Preserve up in Butte County, and believe it or not, livestock is the main management tool for sustaining this biodiversity. I’m gonna take time for questions a little bit later, so
we’ll come back to that, but don’t forget please. So, I’ve got just a little
bit of time left here, so I’m gonna speed it up. Mechanistically, here’s some of the ways that grazing helps us take
care of our plants and animals. The first one is just
by helping us maintain open grassland habitat,
regardless of the composition. Things like this short eared
owl, another grassland owl, quite simply need large
areas of open grassland. And grazing can help us accomplish that. The second is maintaining some areas with short-statured grassland, so it turns out when you
look at grassland animals just the height, the
varying height of vegetation is very important for different species. A number of sensitive
species in our grasslands prefer a short-statured grassland. Things like this little
tiny plantago erecta that grows prolifically
on some of our graze sites and supports this endangered butterfly. Aquatic features that we
maintain on these sites, and the associated vegetation structure that livestock influence are beneficial to animals like this federally
listed red-legged frog. Now really what I mean here is talking about pond management, but this was just a really cute picture of a red-legged frog in a cattle trough at
La Honda Creek Preserve. And then lastly, carefully managed grazing can help us maintain
some balance in the tide of exotic invasive grasses that tend to out-compete some of our native species. So here’s again, for the
botanically inclined, a dense stand of purple needle grass and associated wildflowers
at Mindego Hill Ranch, part of the Russian Ridge Perserve that is in our grazing program. So that’s a lot about diversity, I’ll real quickly touch
on some of the other goals of the Conservation Grazing Program, one of which is fuel management. I think this is a pretty
straightforward one. Here’s a couple pictures of grazed and ungrazed grasslands
within the district. We have grasslands that
can produce around five to 6,000 pounds of dry fuel
by the end of the summer. So picture waist high grass. And the same conservation
targets that we have for our grazing program
to meet habitat standards, reduce that fuel down to more on the scale of 2,000 pounds per acre or so, so think maybe more like
ankle high, knee high grass. So, this is a great way
to reduce wildfire risk on the landscape and very much supported by the California Board of
Forestry and Fire Protection. There’s a place where you can read more about stuff like that. And then lastly I’ll touch on this point of our coastal mission that involves supporting local agricultural heritage. And what I see here is that the Conservation Grazing Program is really a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with our members of our agricultural community in a way that’s mutually beneficial. It supports continued
agricultural activity in our district and these people are able to help us meet our conservation goals by using their livestock
as a management tool. So, that’s all I have to share,
I’m gonna pass this along, but during the transition,
I’m gonna go ahead and put up, these are
some of the references that I used to compile this.
(people laughing) Sorry, to fit ’em all in here
it ended up really small, but if you have questions at the end, I’ll be around at the end of the night, if you wanna talk about any of this. I should introduce our next
speaker is Dr. Veronica Yovovich who’s gonna talk about
her literature review on wildlife and livestock. – [Veronica] All right, thank
you all for coming tonight. I’m Veronica Yovovich, I’m
a researcher at UC Berkeley and for years I was a researcher with the Santa Cruz Puma Project. So I’m gonna talk to you
about how we developed the literature review and the information that Midpen is using to
guide the new wildlife and livestock protection policy. So as Lewis mentioned,
rangelands are really important habitats for wildlife. And California is comprised
of over 50% rangeland. So the dynamics that
are happening at Midpen are playing out across the state. And if we can figure
out ways for livestock that are being ranged on rangeland for conservation purposes
or for other purposes to be able to live in
proximity, in shared spaces with carnivores, we
can effectively open up all of this habitat to carnivores and promote habitat
connectivity across the state. So what’s going on at
Midpen has the potential to have a very large management footprint across the state as other people look to Midpen for guidance on
how to prevent conflicts between livestock and carnivores. Midpen has properties
that are part of a matrix of lands here in the central coast. And as you can see, they’re interspersed with other rangelands with different types of management regimes. So in Midpen if we can figure out ways again, for carnivores and livestock to share space, as those carnivores move between protected lands
and unprotected lands, they’re less likely to run into conflict. If we can teach them how
to interact with livestock in a way that’s safe
for both the carnivores and the livestock, as
they move around they’ll take that knowledge with them. Since they have large
ranges and don’t tend to respect property boundaries. And it’ll increase their safety. So Midpen has the ability
to have management footprint that reaches beyond
Midpen boundaries locally as well as across the state. So knowing that Midpen tenants were having some predation issues with carnivores, they wanted to develop this policy and the first step in that
was to talk to their tenants and to see what’s going on
and get a clearer picture. So they surveyed their
tenants and what they found was that tenants were
reporting that predation was a significant issue for them for their ranching viability. They ranked it as important
or critically important to whether they could keep contributing to the Conservation Grazing Program. Most producers reported having more than one loss to carnivores. And some reported having trouble confirming predation events. Midpen properties are
very rugged and expansive, and so getting out, detecting carcasses and getting to them in a timeframe where you could determine
what the cause of death was, is very difficult. And this is a problem way beyond Midpen, but that’s one of the things
that the tenants noted was an issue for them. They ranked carnivores in order of having the most to least impact as mountain lions had the most impacts on their livestock, coyotes and then domestic dogs. So wanting to do their
homework, Midpen looked around to see what other agencies were doing so that they could borrow tools. Didn’t wanna reinvent the wheels. So, they looked around
to other local agencies and what they found was
that most local agencies don’t have any formal policy
guiding livestock losses. Many handle it, most handle
it, on a case by case basis. Now some local land management agencies do allow lethal and non-lethal tools and some use preemptive reduced rent as a way to compensate producers
for restrictive policies. Some allow non-lethal prevention only and only one agency actually
had a formalized policy. So the county of Marin
had a cost share program and compensation program. The compensation program
was similar to Midpen’s but it was disbanded a few years ago because it was too expensive. And right now they continue to have a cost share program where producers can get deterrents, the cost for deterrents
defrayed by the county. So we’re gonna walk through
a bunch of different tools that are available for
use on Midpen lands, but before we go through the tools, we’re gonna go through a guide here, a little icon guide. So each tool has the silhouette of each of our three primary
carnivores of concern. And each of those will be color coded to tell you how that
tool, how that carnivore and the tool interact. So a green icon means that
that tool is effective against that carnivore. Yellow is moderately effective,
red is not effective. Green with a kind of weird
red halo is that results vary. And gray with a question
mark means there’s no data. So there’s been no research,
nothing’s been tested with that tool on that carnivore. So by far and away the most
effective tool is night penning. This is when you’ve got your livestock in a fully enclosed structure. So four sturdy walls and a sturdy roof and a door that you shut
each and every night with your livestock on the inside. And that is hands down
the most effective tool with all carnivores. But unfortunately this is
also completely impractical for on a rangeland
setting and with cattle. Removing attractants
is also very effective with all of the carnivores
that we’re interested in. So this is if you have livestock that die for whatever reason,
you remove that carcass. There’re logistic hurdles for this, but it’s relatively effective
with all of our carnivores. Now, this is likely best used
in concert with other tools, but keep this in mind as we go forward. Altering production calendars
so calving and fawning are calving at the same time of year as native ungulates are fawning and calving is a good strategy. It’s moderately effective as you can see, but this introduces a lot of
economic penalties to ranchers that we can go over in
the question section if anybody wants to chat about this. Livestock guardian animals are
also a pretty effective tool. So as you can see livestock
guardian dogs in particular are effective with each of
the carnivores of concern. It’s highly effective. The things that you’d
wanna keep in mind are, or some of the benefits
are that they’re effective on all spatial scales,
so small operations up to large scale operations. They work with any livestock species, and they also help keep livestock together which in and of itself
is a predation deterrent. So there’s multiple fronts that livestock guardian
dogs provide benefits. Some key things to keep in
mind are that not all dogs are suitable to be
livestock guardian dogs. Some of them don’t have
the right temperament and so it does require some experimenting. They also need to be properly trained. So this is a pretty big
hurdle for livestock producers that involves a lot of investment on the livestock producer’s part. There’s also special considerations for running livestock
guardian dogs on public land where you have public access. We have hikers and mountain bikers and things like that coming through. Donkeys can also be a
relatively good tool. Depending on the carnivore
that you’re dealing with. So there’s different risk
in the environment, right? And some producers have more
issues with mountain lions and some have more issues with coyotes. So if you’re a producer that has issues with domestic dogs or coyotes, this could be a really
good choice for you. They tend to be cheaper to maintain than livestock guardian dogs,
but they can be aggressive to young, to your calves. So people tend to remove
them when they’re calving which is the time of year
when you probably most want a livestock guardian animal present. Llamas can also be a good
tool, depending on what it is that you’re dealing
with, so if domestic dogs are your biggest issue
then they’re a good tool. They’re less effective with coyotes and I’ve heard that they’re
not at all effective with mountain lions. I’ve had producers say
they get in the middle of your sheep and point out the slow sheep to the mountain lion for them to pick off. Fencing is another traditional
option, and as you can see from the variety of colors we’ve got here, it really depends on the type
of fence that you’re using. Now, one thing to keep in mind here is that any fence that’s good
enough to exclude carnivores altogether is likely gonna be good enough to also exclude any other wildlife. And so that’s gonna remove
the conservation value to some degree, of that habitat. So they’re best to use probably on a small scale or temporarily. There’s a new class of tools,
these frightening deterrents. And the idea here is that
carnivores like many animals like a predictable environment. And these different deterrents
create novel stimuli that make them uncomfortable. Again, these are probably best used on a small spatial sail or temporarily, because carnivores can
habituate to these tools. And I don’t have enough time
to go into a lot of detail about any of these, but
I’m very happy to talk about these things in great detail later. The next class of tools is human activity. So hazing and increasing human presence. We’re gonna focus first on
increased human presence. This could be like a range rider program, or range monitoring program where you have volunteers
come out and patrol. These volunteers provide
extra eyes and ears on the ground to report
sick and injured livestock. They can also monitor carnivore presence, they can check for sign
or monitor game cameras. They can also contribute
non-technical support so they can shuttle supplies or recognize if a fence is down or if there are other things going on and report that to the producer so that they can address those concerns. They can also help if you
have non-lethal deterrents like some of the ones from the last slide. Some key points to
remember is that volunteers are likely gonna be out
there during the day and carnivores tend to
be more active at night. So you’d have to design a program to address that concern. You’d also wanna make
sure that their schedule wasn’t very predictable,
so that the carnivores saw the human presence
as something unpleasant to deal with and that they
couldn’t just get used to. Also carnivores can be kind of anywhere and your volunteers only in one place. So you’d want to figure out ways to sort of broadcast human presence. Hazing is another tool that
has been very effective with coyotes in some places. We don’t know whether it
would work with mountain lions and there’s no data on
domestic dogs either. The idea behind hazing is
basically you’re teaching the carnivores how to
interact with people. You’re making them realize that people are not something that
they wanna be around. You’re being scary. So some key things to remember is that it’s very effective with coyotes, it’s unknown for mountain lions. And you’re preventing
undesirable habits from forming. So the best way to
implement a hazing practice is early on, before problematic
behaviors have developed. It’s very hard to use
hazing once you already have a problem animal that’s
developed undesirable behaviors. This can also extend some
of the management benefits beyond Midpen, if you teach people, if you teach carnivores
that people are scary, they’ll learn that carnivores are scary, and they’ll apply that to anywhere, not just Midpen property. It’s also highly adaptable to the context. Because you have a person there performing the hazing activity you can tweak it really easily and make it very responsive
to the situation. Then there’s some other tools
that I’m not gonna go into because there’s really no
data on their efficacy, so we’re gonna skip right over that. And one thing that you might
notice from the last slide and from some of the previous slides is that there’s really, we
need more research on this. And there are a bunch of groups that are doing local
mountain lion research and local other carnivore, coyote and other carnivore research, that could be appropriate
homes to do more research at Midpen and in other places and really help inform
some of these practices. I wanna emphasize cooperative
extension on this one. They’re in the process right
now of hiring somebody, a human wildlife conflict
advisor whose job it would be to study
these things in this area. In San Mateo County and Bay
Area counties in general. So, this will be coming soon
and that will be very exciting to fill in some of those gaps. So just to kind of wrap up, some components for a successful program would include some low hanging fruit, so you choose the tools that
are easy to implement first. Like removing attractants, or at least straightforward to implement. This could be a good step
in the right direction with other tools as well. Every operation is unique
and so the tools involved to protect livestock on that operation need to be tailored specifically
to meet that context. The best kind of program will
have multiple strategies. Carnivores are out there
24/7 and they’re smart and they’re adaptive. And so you need the tools to be adaptive to match what their skillset is basically. And you’re gonna wanna vary those tools so they don’t get used to one tool and then they’re able to overcome it. And the last thing is
we need more research to be able to inform what we can do and what’s effective where. So similar to Lewis’s slide,
here are some references for you to just read real quick right now. (people laughing) And we can talk about these
at any point in the evening. And with that, I think
Matt, you’re up next. – [Man] Yeah. (people murmuring) – [Matt] All right, thank you Veronica and thank you Lewis for setting things up. As usual, you both make
my job a lot easier. So, my name is Matt Sharp-Chaney and I’m a research management specialist with Midpen Open Space District
in the Wildlife Program. And when I meet people at parties I say that I’m a wildlife biologist, because that makes more sense than resource management specialist. But that is my focus. And I particularly focus
quite a bit on mammals including mountain lions
and many bat species. So the bat that popped
up on the screen earlier in the presentation was a picture of a Townsend’s big-eared
bat that I took myself. I’m here today to talk with you all about a project that I’ve been
working on for some time now, which is amending this
grazing management policy to address the issue of
wildlife and livestock conflict. And I wanna recognize again
that this is a controversial issue that elicits a lot of emotion from many people, including myself. But the emotion that I’d
like to express to you today is actually one of excitement. I think that Midpen is
in a very good position to implement some
proactive measures to try and deal with this problem not only to benefit Midpen preserves,
but the region as a whole. So I’m very excited to be
here to have this conversation with you all about how to
better protect wildlife and livestock together. So today I’m gonna talk a little bit about why conflict puts predators at risk. I’m gonna talk about what our grazing program is composed of. I’m gonna talk about our
existing resource management policies, so what are the
policies that we’re talking about? What do these policies dictate? What do they do for us as a district? And then I’ll get into details about the actual grazing policy amendment. So to start, reducing conflicts
do protect native predators. I wanna really emphasize that. And to put a point on it, I will give you a little background information, about the mountain lion
population as we know it in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There’s not a lot of great information about the number of mountain
lions in the region, but a recent study suggested
that there was 33 to 66 adult mountain lions in the
Santa Cruz Mountain region. There’s another study coming out from Fish and Wildlife
that we’re actually working with them on, that may
have a more accurate number in the next couple of years,
but this gives you an idea. 33 to 66 adult lions. While mountain lions are a
specially protected mammal in the state of California,
it is actually legal to lethally remove them
if they are attacking or have attacked domestic animals including pets or livestock. In San Mateo, Santa Clara
and Santa Cruz counties, which are the three counties
that make up the Santa Cruz Mountains, from 2008 to 2018
a total of 42 mountain lions were legally killed through
the use of depredation permits because of conflict between
them and domestic animals. And that’s a total of 133 permits issued. Not all permits result
in a lion being taken. But that’s 133 confirmed
instances of conflict between these beautiful
predators and livestock. UCSC Puma Project, Dr. Chris
Wilmers mentioned to me that legal depredation is actually one of the leading causes of
mortality for mountain lions in the region, just behind
impacts from vehicles. And in addition to these
legal lethal takes, we are aware that there
is illegal poaching also taking place in
response to these conflicts. So conflict does put predators at risk. In addition, it also puts our
Conservation Grazing Program at risk, so we’ve been collecting data on the total number of confirmed losses to predator species in
the district since 2013 when we started actually
reimbursing tenants for those confirmed losses. We’re one of the only organizations in the area that does this. And the way that we look at it is if you are say, doing some yard work, and you’re borrowing a
weed-whacker from your neighbor and you break it in the middle
of doing that yard work, well you should probably
replace or repair that thing. So, what we’re doing
with this reimbursement is making sure that the
tools that we’re using, the cattle that we use to
implement our conservation grazing goals are replaced if
they’re taken by a predator. We have 22 animals total that we know of that have been taken. And if you look at that Districtwide, the average percent loss is 0.72%, which is not very high,
on a district-wide scale. But of course, these impacts
are not felt district-wide, they’re felt on individual
basis or are individual tenants. And what’s important to note here is that the average loss on district lands is higher than the state average. So we have some great
mountain lion habitat and we at the district are lucky enough to get to manage 65,000
acres of that habitat. The Santa Cruz Mountains
is a great location for mountain lions. In terms of the habitat itself however, it is very fragmented and isolated which leads to issues
with genetic depression. We also manage a large
majority of the grazing area in the San Mateo County coast, around 33%, 8,500 acres, and that
means that what we do has an impact beyond our scope. So if we have a program that’s successful, it’s likely that private
livestock operators may be interested in that and
want to know more about it. In addition, other resource agencies that have conservation grazing programs are definitely paying attention
to how this policy proceeds. If we’re successful and
make a policy that works, then this will be noted and hopefully there’ll be more similar
policies moving forward to address this issue. So, to give you a little information about what our Conservation
Grazing Programs consist of, we have seven conservation
grazing ranchers that we work with on
10 separate properties. These range in size from 270 acres to nearly 4,000 acres,
these are very wide ranging large pastures in rough
mountainous terrain. And the stocking capacity
on a property basis is from 20 head of
cattle to a high of 193. And district-wide,
around 550 to 600 cattle is what we currently have. So now that you have a little background about what our grazing program is about, let’s talk about what these
resource management policies are about, that’s what
we’re here to discuss. Policies that we have
at the district really are a high level definition
of how we manage resources. So, they set up a framework,
they offer a toolkit for staff and our board to make decisions about how we can best manage resources. And in addition, they offer an opportunity for us to inform the
public about our intentions like we’re doing today. So, we have a specific resource management mission statement. I won’t read it out loud for you, but essentially what it is is protecting and restoring the natural environment, which is part of our mission statement. Then we’ll call out
specifically some components of this resource management policy which include wildlife, vegetation, water, grazing management as well as others. I’ll focus on these in particular, because they have a greater impact on how we manage our grazing lands. Our wildlife policy’s goal is to maintain and promote healthy and diverse
native wildlife populations. Our vegetation policy goal, promote viable and diverse native plant communities. Our water policy, protect and
restore natural water courses. And the reason I’m telling
you about all of these is that I want everyone to be aware that we need to look at and consider all of
our policies in concert when we’re making any management decision. We can’t ignore one and
focus only on the other. So with this policy that
we’re putting together, we’re wanting to make sure
that it doesn’t conflict with any other policies. So this brings us to our
grazing management policy goal. This is the existing policy. We already have this policy in place, what we’re working on is an amendment. And you can see echoes
of those other goals from those other policies here. Protect natural resources, maintain and enhance the diversity of native plant and animal communities. But what we don’t have here
as a goal is manage conflict between wildlife and livestock, which is why we’re
working on the amendment. So the goal of the amendment
is ensuring the sustainability both economically and ecologically of conservation grazing areas
in areas where predation of livestock may occur. And this photo set right down
here is from a wildlife camera that we have out at Russian Ridge and it really illustrates a point that the majority of the time, cattle and wildlife are not in conflict. These two species, the
mountain lion and the cow here are in the same area at separate times and are not in conflict, but occasionally there are conflicts and that’s why we need to address them to protect both cattle and wildlife. So there’s three components to the policy that I’m gonna go through very quickly. Number one is economics. So I’m gonna use an example here from one of our grazing
tenants, Ronny Seaver who manages the grasslands with us out at Mindego Hill which
is one of my favorite places that I get to work, where
we have a healthy population of San Francisco garter snake and California red-legged frog. Now Ronny was kind enough to give us some personal information
about his operation and the finances of his operation. And we see here that the
market price for a calf is about $850 and Ronny’s annual expenses for running this
operation is about $26,000 and that includes rent and inoculations and pregnancy, impregnations for cattle, those sorts of things. Now, Ronny has about 40 cows a year that are yielded from his efforts. In a perfect scenario
he’d make about $7,000 for managing this landscape
with us for an entire year by running cattle there. Which is not a huge amount of money. If he had a 5% loss,
he’d make about 5,000, and with a 22% loss he
would be in the red. And this is actually something
that occurred in 2018, he did have a 22% loss, which
really puts that partnership that we have with him in jeopardy. And he had to think long and hard about whether he could
continue to work with us. But two of those calves that were lost we know were from coyotes,
but as is often the case, the majority of them,
we weren’t able to make that determination so we
don’t know what the entirety of that loss is from. This I think I just wanna point out that these losses are
not felt proportionally. I went over that a little bit before, but on an individual basis for
individual grazing tenants, losses range from anywhere from 0%, some people have no losses
at all in a given year, and as high as almost 7%. And so, I’d like, I usually just imagine what I would feel like if
7% of my income was lost for some reason and how
much that would impact me. And we realize that this is significant for individual tenants. Now if we’re looking at
alternatives to grazing, some of the methods that
Lewis mentioned earlier, I’ll just real quickly note that last year we spent about $238,000
on conservation grazing. Which sounds like a good chunk of money, but if you compare it to the cost per acre of other methods, you realize that it’s actually very much so, the most economically
viable solution for us to manage landscapes at
the scale that we do. And as an example, we’ve
put together a hypothetical breakdown of how we might
manage that 7,600 acres of actively grazed land
with different methods, making up different percentages. And realized that we would
spend about $17 million if we were to use mowing, prescribed fire and brush cutting and
the biological monitors that would be needed
implement those successfully without harming the San
Francisco garter snake and red-legged frog and things like that that we want to protect. So this is the draft language, and I won’t go into specifics on this, but just call out that
what we’re looking at here is providing relief for our tenants that are using non-lethal
protection measures. So, they’re actively trying
to dissuade predators from taking livestock. (clears throat) Excuse me. And they’re also
documenting the total losses to predators as well as other factors, which we’ll use to inform our management decisions moving forward. The way that we’re intending on helping our grazing tenants and
helping this partnership is by reducing our AUM or rent rate, and by increasing our reimbursement amount to cover the potential
value of an animal loss rather than the value of the animal at the time that it is lost. All right, so the second
component is the wildlife and livestock protection component which is really the heart of this policy. And what we’re talking about here is what Veronica detailed
in her presentation. So we are trying to reduce
conflicts, safeguard wildlife and conservation grazing, select methods that work for each operation
and develop a protocol for detailing how we
implement the methods. So these are some of the methods, as a reminder that we are considering. I will touch briefly on hazing, and note that hazing would only be allowed in response to loss of livestock. We wouldn’t authorize
hazing if a mountain lion or coyote was just on the landscape in area where cattle are. We want these predators on the landscape, we recognize that they
are a very important part of a healthy ecology. But hazing would only be
allowed in response to loss. We are looking at
developing a pilot project for livestock monitoring to
try and help with that issue of cattle being lost, but not being discovered quickly enough to determine the cause of loss. And then the final component
of the policy is research. So we’re looking at
supporting scientific research on wildlife and livestock conflicts and using that research
to modify our methods based on what we find. So the things that we’re looking at are how effective are deterrents, how effective is changing
livestock operations, can we identify habituated predators, what are the impacts of
deterrents on non-target species of wildlife and cattle. And with that, I would like to conclude by just again thanking
you all for being here during this busy holiday season. And I want to invite you all to continue to have this important conversation. We have many upcoming meetings. Late February we’ll have a planning and natural resources committee meeting on this topic and I
invite all of you to come, and if you’d like to
speak, you’ll be given an opportunity to speak
directly to our board. We’ll have additional meetings and also a CEQA review
period from May through June where you can direct
comments through our CEQA. So this conversation is controversial, is emotional, but it is very exciting and I think that we have
a great opportunity here to do something that has a larger impact, that extends beyond just Midpen preserves and protects both wildlife and livestock. So thank you all for being here to help us have this conversation. Here are my sources cited,
they’re not quite as many. But with that, I’m
gonna turn it over again to Sheila Berry, and I will just point out if people do have specific questions for anybody that presented today, we will be available after
the small group sessions at the back of the room here, and you can come up and
talk to us directly. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that we also have a comment
cards by the welcome table and you can submit comment cards and we’ll reply to those. So with that, we’ll let Sheila go up. – [Sheila] So we’re gonna
have about a 10 minute break, and then we’re gonna
move to our small groups. And you’ll have a
facilitator in your group that’ll guide through
four discussion topics. And so I wanna make sure
you know where to go after our break, and
so we’ll end our break at I think 7:25 you’ll
report to your room. So groups one through three
will be in the Redwood Hall, and that’s here. Groups four and five
will be in the Elm Room, that’s four and five in the Elm Room. And six and seven in the Cedar Room. And eight and nine will
be in the Willow Room. I also wanna point out
that there’s a comment box that’s available at the front of the hall, where the person’s waving their hand there in the back, if you feel like you want to write a question or a comment. So yeah, you report to your group at 7:25 and then after that we’ll
be rejoining back here and have the groups report back. So pizza in the back
and restrooms as well. (people murmuring)

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