Community Agriculture Alliance: Every day is Earth Day for ranchers
On April 22, residents will celebrate the 37th year of Earth Day.
The day was started in spring 1970 by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. There were an estimated 20 million people nationwide who attended festivities out of which came the largest grass-roots environmental movement in U.S. history, and the momentum for national legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.
By the 20th anniversary of that event in 1990, more than 200 million people in 141 countries participated in Earth Day celebrations.
But, Earth Day is not without historical precedent. Remember Arbor Day and Bird Day? They were established in the late 1800s to support forestation, conservation and the appreciation of nature.
The first Arbor Day took place on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska. Pioneer Julius Sterling Morton (of Morton Salt Co.) from Detroit proposed the day after his family settled in the Nebraska Plains in 1854. Morton was a member of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. The first statewide Arbor Day was a huge success – more than 1 million trees were planted in a single day in 1872!
By 1920, more than 45 states and territorial possessions were celebrating Arbor Day. Although several U.S. presidents have proclaimed National Arbor Day in April (most recently President Nixon, in 1972, the 100th anniversary of Arbor Day), many states continue to celebrate the holiday at different times.
And Bird Day, which was started on May 4, 1894, was widely celebrated in conjunction with Arbor Day to enhance the awareness of nature in school-age children.
Why the history lesson? While all of these celebrations are monumental, ranchers have been engaging in these events every day of their lives.
Colorado ranchers know all too well that to continue their livelihood in cattle production, they must be committed to caring for the environment. In all actuality, the Western rancher is the consummate environmentalist. Much like the original homesteaders, progressive ranchers are concerned with the water quality and water conservation, land stewardship, positive effects on wildlife and grazing the land. It’s the way of their lives and their livelihood.
Regarding water quality, water conservation:
Beef Producers ensure proper practices are used in every step of the beef production process to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, established in 1972.
Ranchers need water for their crops and using pipes to line their ditches reduces the loss of water. Utilizing side-roll and center pivot sprinklers also conserve water and irrigate the crops evenly with less evaporation. Sprinklers offer the rancher a system that is efficient in energy and water usage. Also, it could require a lesser amount of labor than traditional ditch irrigation.
Regarding Land Stewardship:
Ranchers depend on healthy, natural resources for their livelihood and therefore, place high value on stewardship of the land.
Good environmental practices not only conserve and improve natural resources, but also enhance the productivity of the land.
Many beef cattle producers practice natural resource management activities including soil tests, brush and weed control programs, grazing management plans, minimum or conservation tillage systems and range quality and grass utilization monitoring.
Members of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association have adopted a resolution of stewardship beliefs including:
1. Manage for the environment as a whole, including climate, soil, topography, plant and animal communities.
2. Monitor and document effective practices.
3. Solicit input from a variety of sources on a regular basis to improve the art and science of resource management.
4. Help develop public and private research projects to enhance the current body of knowledge.
5. Never knowingly cause or permit abuses that result in permanent damage on public or private land.
effects on wildlife:
A combination of livestock and wildlife management on grazing lands has resulted in better species survival than when these two activities are practiced separately.
In the eastern and central United States, wildlife is almost entirely dependent on ranch, farm and other private lands. Since these lands are the responsibility of individual land owners, ranchers play an important role in the survival of native species.
A California-based study (Conservation Biology journal, summer 2005) shows cattle grazing plays an important role in maintaining the wetland habitat necessary for some endangered species.
America’s farmers and ranchers are committed to caring for the nation’s environmental resources
Cattle producers maintain grazing land which can include open space, woodlands, grass, trees, forests, plains, mountains, valleys and lowlands.
Approximately 85 percent of the nation’s grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops.
Cattle serve a valuable role in the ecosystem with their ability to convert forages that humans cannot consume into nutrient-dense food such as meat and milk.
Grazing animals on land unsuitable for crop production more than doubles the land area that can be used to produce food in this country.
Cattle grazing can be used to minimize the invasion of non-native plant species and to minimize the risk of wildfires by decreasing the amount of flammable material on the land.
The NCBA provides materials and other support for effective grazing management. By creating a “Grazing Lands Management Plan,” for example, beef producers take into account the growth of plants in a given area and the rate at which forage plants are consumed when deciding how to rotate cattle to new pastures.
The above facts are available on the NCBA Web site, http://www.beef.org.
From the beginning of western states civilization, the cattle producer has been engaging in these practices everyday as the good environmental conscious stewards that they are. It is only common sense that producers are the daily caretakers of the water, land, wildlife and domestic livestock. The simple reason is for a healthier future for all of us.
Whether or not you’re a cattle producer, remember everyday is Earth Day. Join in on Sunday, April 22 and plant something, recycle something or even turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
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