VICTORIA — Livestock and cattle will soon help fight wildfires in British Columbia as the province looks to create a targeted grazing program.
The B.C. government will give $500,000 to the BC Cattlemen's Association, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said in a statement Saturday.
The association will develop partnerships and investigate how to use the cattle to manage fine fuels. These include cured grass, fallen leaves, needles, small twigs and any other fuels that ignite readily and are rapidly consumed by fire.
The province will work with local governments, the ranching sector and Indigenous communities on the project.
"It's an intriguing model that I'm hopeful will become a mainstay in our efforts to protect our communities and resources from fires, as well as supporting B.C. ranchers and B.C. beef," Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said in a statement.
It's not a solution, but a powerful tool when combined with other methods, like prescribed burning and selective tree harvesting, the government said, noting wildfire prevention programs in southern Europe and parts of the U.S. already successfully use livestock in this manner.
Targeted grazing is low-carbon and cost effective, it said, while supporting local food production and giving ranchers new opportunities.
"It's one example of what we're doing to reduce the threat of wildfires, while supporting the ranching sector and maintaining wildlife habitat in our province," said Doug Donaldson, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development.
In 2018, there was a "record-setting area burned" by wildfires in the province, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
More than 2,100 fires consumed roughly 1.35 million hectares of land — up from the previous record of more than 1.2 million hectares in 2017.