Another issue on my agenda, and apparently mine alone, is cattle fences around streams and creeks.
Sounds like a good idea, right? Cows degrade water and if we keep cows out of our waters, it will help water quality. Except for one small problem. It keeps out everything else. And while this may upset our farmers, other animals, besides cattle, need to drink and eat and use the riparian zone. Essentially, fences prioritize cattle over wildlife.
Biodiversity is the most important element of a healthy ecosystem. And that results in resiliency and protects water quality and quantity. Having wildlife living in and travel through our riparian areas protects the integrity of functioning ecosystems, which is something that fences destroy. Somehow, that part of the equation is always lost on people.
And we put fences up without any analysis of wildlife impacts, or migration corridors or habitat connectivity, and then wonder why all these environmental laws do not work. Not only is the [Whatcom County] council actively promoting more fences, they are failing to require best management practices for how to construct fences to minimize the danger.
There is never any discussion of alternatives to fences, like a big vegetated buffer. Maybe it time to look at the real impacts from cattle and determine the county’s carrying load.. i.e, the amount of cattle that can be raised here without interfering with healthy ecosystem function, or not interfering too much, and mitigation Frankly, I do not care if this makes running a farm more expensive. Pass that cost along to the consumer, who will pay more for beef and pork. Right now we are eating meat at subsidized rates at the cost to our environmental. We all know that has to stop.
Let’s start now by looking at alternatives to fences, or at least some of the fences, based on a characterization and review of ecosystem processes within a watershed and where this would and would not be appropriate. Let’s remove policies and regulations promoting fences. This is short term and costly solution to a long term problem. Come on, County Council. Bit the bullet now.
I will be sharing some stories about the impacts to wildlife caught, hurt, or killed from fences so people will begin to understand the casualties we are creating for our local species.