Open space district awards grazing lease for San Mateo property
By Lisa M. Krieger
Reversing a no-cow trend, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is awarding a five-year grazing lease for its Tunitas Creek property to San Mateo Coastside rancher Doug Edwards.
This is the second grazing lease awarded by the district in the past year. Last December, a five-year grazing lease was awarded to rancher Vince Fontana for the former Big Dipper Ranch at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.
The old paradigm was to kick cattle off property when acquired by conservation groups. Overgrazed, eroded and trampled pastures had alarmed the region's environmentalists. But further research brought a turnaround in thinking. Removing cattle from San Jose's Silver Creek Hills in the 1990s, for instance, led to depletion of wildflowers that are food for the endangered bay checkerspot butterfly.
Inspired by successful grazing on San Jose's Coyote Ridge, district managers seek to reduce wildfire risk in an area that is too big to mow and too dangerous to burn - and fend off the encroachment of forest.
The district's adoption of "conservation grazing" - the use of livestock to boost the diversity of native plants and animals, control the spread of invasive non-native plants and prevent fire - may eventually reintroduce cattle to 5,000 grassy acres in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Both Edwards and Fontana are longtime ranchers in the region.