A Cud Above: Cattle grazing helps endangered wildlife on public lands

  • “Keeping the grass short controls non-native grasses and increases germination for native vernal pool plants like the endangered Contra Costa goldfield,” said wildlife refuge specialist Ivette Loredo, who manages the Warm Springs unit for the Service.

by Doug Cordell, USFWS Read full story here (June 2018)

…Through a public-private agreement, the ranchers graze their cattle on a 719-acre vernal pool grassland at the Warm Springs unit of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont, California.

With this pact, they’re keeping alive a ranching and land stewardship heritage spanning four generations. The grazing, in turn, offers a host of benefits for endangered species at the seasonal pond.

…Grazing also benefits other wildlife. For endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp and threatened California tiger salamanders, it reduces non-native grasses that suck up water and shorten the seasonal lifespan of pool breeding habitats. For burrowing owls, a species of special concern in the state of California, and ground squirrels, which dig burrows used by the owls and salamanders, grazing helps them detect predators like foxes and hawks.

The refuge maintains several small, ungrazed “exclosures” — areas where cattle are not allowed — as a yardstick for comparison with the grazed area. Loredo often leads tours of the site, using the exclosures as a teaching tool….