Visitors to the Bear Creek portion of the Cache Creek Natural Area
(formerly the Payne Ranch) may notice signs of livestock grazing here during the coming year. Beginning in early 2006, cows are being brought back onto these acquired lands from mid-December through mid-June, specifically to reduce populations of noxious weeds. This type of grazing is known as prescription grazing and is carefully timed to coincide with the growth periods of serious rangeland weeds (including yellow starthistle, barbed goatgrass, and medusahead) to allow for optimum control.
The type of grazing practices allowed under prescription grazing are tightly controlled and monitored by BLM to ensure that objectives for noxious weed reduction are succeeding, while impacts are being minimized. The high intensity/short duration grazing scheme means that relatively concentrated livestock grazing occurs in a small treatment area for a short period of time. In practice, about 8,000 grazeable acres here have been divided into ten grazing units. Livestock are grazed on average for 14 days in each unit before being moved to the next unit. Using this technique, each grazing unit is grazed for two 14-day periods during the 6-month grazing season.
A livestock herder, utilizing trucks, horses and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), will be present on the property 6 days a week to ensure that the cattle are grazing where they are supposed to be. Visitors to the area will notice single strand electrified fencing, which is being used to confine the cattle to each grazing unit. Where the fencing crosses a trail, a gate has been placed for easy access by recreationists.
Livestock impacts to certain trails may also be apparent, especially when the soils are saturated. Both the livestock operator and BLM staff will take measures to smooth over the affected trails to minimize impacts to the public.
Prescription grazing is one of several management tools that the BLM is using to combat the proliferation of noxious weeds. Other treatment methods include prescribed fire, planting native vegetation, herbicide application, mowing, and where feasible, hand-pulling.