I am impressed by Chevron’s initiative to improve the land around its well site through the use of livestock.
The method used by Loni Malmberg and her sons (Herald, Oct. 24) has been used to regenerate grasslands in arid and semi-arid lands around the world. The pastoralists I have worked with in Africa during the last seven years are quite keen on the practice: it uses resources they have at hand; it respects tradition; it improves their grazing lands; and it enhances their livelihood. It’s great to see an industrial giant adopting the same practice in our backyard for many of the same reasons.
For the sake of our land and for the sake of those who make a living from it, a common misperception must be corrected – one that hinders effective, large-scale land regeneration. Namely, livestock are not the cause of land degradation. More correctly, it is the way we manage livestock that is the cause of land degradation. To compare, think of who we hold responsible for common automobile accidents: Is it the car or the operator?
Working from this enlarged perspective we do better and see natural solutions to environmental problems that are within our grasp. This includes grazing practices that mimic nature – such as bunched herds moving across the landscape and returning only after the plants have recovered. This practice has improved biodiversity on millions of acres worldwide and has helped many ranchers in the West prosper through the years. It has been used on mine reclamation sites and is applicable to most any disturbed or degraded land.
I’ve done graduate work in rangeland ecosystem science, studied in plant and soil sciences and trained in holistic resource management – but none of that matters to the pastoral herders with whom I work. What has mattered to them is they are now improving their livelihood through the same applied practices that Chevron has recently employed on its sites.
I will say this approach is not a silver bullet, but it is an effective process worth doing. I do not find it hard to believe that individuals and corporations are using hooves to heal the land. To the contrary, I find it hard to believe that more people are not doing so.