Twin Challenges

In California we face twin challenges of a degraded watershed and an onslaught of catastrophic fires. Herds for Change aims to tackle both these challenges with a natural solution that restores our regional ecosystem. 

This includes:

  • Reducing the fuel

  • Improving the watershed

  • Collecting data and analysis to inform decision making

  • Supporting community involvement

 

Reducing the fuel

While the region’s dense forests may seem like a natural occurrence, they are a reaction to decades of mismanagement. 

 

Show images from 1960 and today. 

 

When vast wild herds of Elk deer and antelope, still roamed, they would naturally thin out smaller trees and allow the larger, more fire-resilient pines to thrive. Fires would stay lower in the canopy and burn at much lower temperatures.

 

In the absence of these herds and , we have seen wildfires in California grow from a few hundred acres to hundreds of thousands of acres in a matter of decades. These catastrophic fires kill the forest canopy, scorch the soil seed bank, and birth an ecosystem that is even more prone to catastrophic fire. After an intense fire, burn zones grow back with highly flammable brush, noxious weeds and plants that are typical of the Sonoran Desert. 

At the same time, rising temperatures (due to ecosystem mismanagement around the world and its impact on climate change) evaporate more moisture from the soil and make vegetation more flammable. 

 

The good news? This process is reversible. 

 

We can bring in herds of ruminant animals to mimic the enormous herds that stewarded the forests and grasslands of California prior to the Gold Rush. We can also introduce controlled, low-intensity fire to build upon the wisdom of those who stewarded this land for millennia. 

The result will be more diverse, resilient ecosystems, greater water retention in the soil, and preservation of our cities and towns for both current and future generations.

 

At Herds for Change our goal is to support X herds over X acres. 

 

Improving the watershed

In a healthy water cycle, the land holds water for future use. Healthy soil is key; the greater the organic matter stored in the soil, the higher its water retention ability. By grazing herds of ruminant animals, we can convert brushy vegetation into manures which are essential to build healthy soils in the region, sequester carbon, and retain water. This also means greater moisture stored in the soil during the dry season and less susceptibility to catastrophic fires. 

 

Collecting data and analysis to inform decision making

While these methods have been proven to work around the world, it is essential we measure our progress and ensure a regionally-specific approach. Our method for data collection is as follows:

  • Control area? (area by the pond)

  • before and after  - pictures for visual representation, data on plant species, amounts and

  • Soil health app

  • Perennial grasses vs annual grasses ( too much shade from lower brush and overcrowded upper canopy)

 

Supporting community involvement

Our community is one of our greatest resources. It is our goal to engage rural and suburban landowners in a comprehensive year-found forest stewardship program. This will take the form of volunteer days, apprenticeship programs, and community education events. Together we can mimic this powerful natural process, preserve the ecosystem we call home, and all breathe a little easier.

If you are interested in learning more we suggest the following resources on controlled burning and lang management: 

  • Resource 1 - explains holistic grazing

  • Resource 2 - resource from fire dept? 

  • Resource 3

 

Our animals are hardy workers and they get hungry! If just 1 in 10 people in the East Bay watershed supported 1 sheep for 1 day ($3) we could [what could we do we $410,000?...local acres restored?]

 

SUPPORT HERDS FOR CHANGE HERE [link to donation page]