Fire is becoming an increasingly urgent issue facing Californians today. Last year, 2.6 million acres burned across the state, displacing people, destroying homes, harming ecosystems and emitting unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide. In part due to increasing drought and in part due to historic fire suppression models, California is facing an ecological crisis at a scale never before witnessed. In the face of this crisis, new methods of removing flammable vegetation, also known as “fuel load”, are being developed. Among these methods is Prescribed Grazing, or the use of ruminant animals to eat or otherwise reduce the amount of flammable vegetation on the landscape. This method also comes with tremendous co-benefits. Unlike other methods of the fuels treatments, such as mechanical (the use of heavy machinery) or herbicide (the broadacre application of herbicides), grazing requires little to no chemical or oil inputs. Grazing, when managed correctly, also has the ability to deliver ecosystem services -- boosting the potential for soil carbon sequestration, healing water cycle, and increasing biodiversity. In this presentation you will hear from seasoned Contract Grazer, Cole Bush of Shepherdess Land & Livestock, as well as Rob Hazard, Battalion Chief at Santa Barbara County Fire, about the need to scale such preventative management in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and increase the potential to deliver ecosystem services.
Molly Taylor, Climate Smart Agriculture Program Manager, Climate Resilience Program, Community Environmental Council
Molly Taylor joined the Community Environmental Council in 2021 as their Climate Smart Ag Program Manager. She works to bridge the gap between the agriculture industry and environmentalists to help local farmers turn their land into carbon sinks, while turning a profit. Prior to CEC, Molly managed a ranching operation in Northern California specializing in pasture-raised meat. She is also an Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) monitor working with land managers annually to adapt management based on careful observation of ecological health.
Brittany Cole Bush, Shepherdess Land and Livestock
Cole Bush owns and operates Shepherdess Land & Livestock, a contract grazing business that works with sheep and goats to provide vegetation management services, consultation, education, and training in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Her work recognizes the importance of science and research to monitor and document impact, aiming to measure a quantifiable increase in land’s capacity for resilience and regeneration all while reducing the need for GHG intensive inputs. In addition to contract grazing, Cole operates a hide business that markets the climate beneficial products of grazing sheep.
Rob Hazard, Chief Fire Marshall/Prevention, Santa Barbara County Fire
Rob started his career in fire working as a Wildland Firefighter with the US Forest Service in 1988 where he worked for over a decade fighting fires. Upon completing his service there, he became Battalion Chief with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a position he has dedicated himself to for the last twenty-three years. In this position, Rob gained extensive knowledge of state and county fire prevention programs. He has been an advocate for increased fire prevention work and most recently spearheaded a CalFire funded prescribed grazing project that will implement fuels reduction on the Gaviota Coast.
Pelayo Alvarez, California Program Director, Audubon Conservation Ranching Program, Audubon Society
With seven years of work at the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition followed by six years at the Carbon Cycle Institute, Pelayo has worked to further the environmental stewardship of California’s rangelands for decades. As Program Director of the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program in California, Pelayo’s focused shifted to emphasize the importance of thriving biodiversity, especially birds, of California's rangelands. An experienced Agro-ecologist, Pelayo works in the interface between agriculture and conservation issues. Integrating knowledge of agricultural production systems and conservation issues, he brings people together to build partnerships among producers, conservation organizations, academia, government to create opportunities for the conservation and stewardship of natural and working landscapes.