B.C.’s grasslands never recovered from the gold rush

VICTORIA– The effect of 150 years of livestock grazing on grasslands in the interior Douglas Fir zone in south central B.C. has altered much of this ecosystem in long-lasting and possibly permanent ways, according to a Forest Practices Board special report released today.

The report says that:

  • Historical grazing has resulted in significantly altered grasslands;
  • Recovery of the native bunchgrass communities is slow and, in some cases, may not be possible without intervention;
  • Recent grazing practices have further slowed recovery on some sites.

“Our findings come as no surprise to knowledgeable range managers who have struggled for decades to improve B.C.’s grasslands,” said board chair Bruce Fraser. “A healthy native bunchgrass community provides livestock forage, wildlife habitat and protection from soil erosion – but in their current state, many of our grasslands can’t do this.”

While the Province took action in 2006 to address the loss of grassland to encroaching forests – allocating $2 million toward their restoration – they have put little emphasis on restoring grasslands damaged by historical grazing. A comprehensive grassland restoration program would be beneficial, but would be expensive and difficult to implement. A first step would be to develop a restoration strategy addressing many diverse stakeholder concerns.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board:

  • audits forest and range practices on public lands;
  • audits appropriateness of government enforcement;
  • investigates public complaints;
  • undertakes special investigations of current forestry issues;
  • participates in administrative appeals; and
  • makes recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

Fred Parker
Executive Director

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250-356-1683 or 1-800-994-5899

July 25, 2007