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Okanagan silvopasture project earns Premier's Partnership Award

Silvopasture blends forestry and ranching practices together.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
September 26, 2013 - 12:41 PM

VERNON - There is a swathe of land in the Okanagan unlike any other clearcut in British Columbia.

Located around the Vernon Creek Watershed, the space represents the first silvopasture pilot project in the province and the groups behind it recently earned a Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Award for their partnership efforts.

Silvopasture, which blends forestry, livestock grazing and conservation practices together, could well be the future of the ranching and timber industries. A partnership between numerous stakeholders, including government, Tolko Industries, the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, and the Okanagan Basin Water Board, the project marks a new approach to doing business. 

In the silvopasture method, cattle are turned out on reseeded, grassy clearcuts and directed away from major waterways with fencing and off-stream watering developments. The idea is to produce both fibre and food on the same piece of land while also promoting water conservation.

“Some people say you’re just turning your cows out, but with silvopasture, you’re managing your outcomes,” Lee Hesketh, with the Cattlemen’s Association, says.

He’s thrilled to see ranchers, government, and forestry finally working together after years of conflict.

“They (forestry) are growing 2x4s, we’re growing cattle,” Hesketh says. “We’re showing we can go out there and meet both objectives.”

Both industries rely on Crown land, and Hesketh says it’s been every man for himself for years, with neither side wanting to accommodate the other. Silvopasture allows stakeholders to maximize use of the land base, and is a win/win for all sides, including the environment.

“It (watershed) is a sensitive riparian ecosystem... We had to do something,” Hesketh says. “Silvopasture gives the forestry and ranching sectors more tools to be sustainable. It’s giving us security both economically and environmentally.”

Bruce Smith, communications officer for the Regional District of Central Okanagan, which participated in the project, says water stewardship was their main focus.

“The aim was to evaluate silvopasture coupled with off-stream water developments as a management approach for reducing seasonal (spring/fall) cattle use of watershed riparian areas, and as a tool to enhance source water protection, water quality, water conservation and riparian health,” Smith says.

Being a pilot project, Hesketh says the work isn’t over yet.

“It’s not just about doing it and saying it’s done,” Hesketh says. “There will be test plots and field studies. There are going to be hiccups along the way, but that’s better than finding ways not to make it work,” Hesketh says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230, or tweet @charhelston.

Video Credit: BCPublicService

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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