Think beef cat­tle are bad for the en­vi­ron­ment? Think again

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - An­thony Stor­netta is the pres­i­dent of the San Luis Obispo County Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, the largest cat­tle­men’s as­so­ci­a­tion in the state. The Stor­netta fam­ily has lived on the Cen­tral Coast for four gen­er­a­tions, rais­ing dairy and beef cat­tle. BY AN­THONY

As pres­i­dent of the San Luis Obispo County Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, I am re­spond­ing to a Tribune ed­i­to­rial that ref­er­enced the neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts of beef cat­tle.

All we hear about to­day in the news is the im­pact of green­house gases from beef cat­tle, yet beef cat­tle con­trib­ute less than 2 per­cent of to­tal green­house gases — far less im­pact than the 26 per­cent of emis­sions that comes from trans­porta­tion.

Also, no­body is talk­ing about what we are do­ing to se­quester car­bon.

Car­bon se­ques­tra­tion is the long-term cap­ture and stor­age of car­bon from the at­mos­phere, typ­i­cally as car­bon diox­ide. Pri­vate graz­ing lands can as­sist with car­bon se­ques­tra­tion in both soil and biomass to re­duce im­pacts to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Open range lands on the Cen­tral Coast can pro­vide up to 268 pounds of car­bon stor­age per acre when us­ing var­i­ous types of graz­ing man­age­ment prac­tices.

Due to our area hav­ing so much open graz­ing land — over 1 mil­lion acres of na­tive pas­ture and forest­land — this cap­ture of car­bon ul­ti­mately de­creases the amount of car­bon diox­ide that would oth­er­wise be re­leased to the air.

Other pos­i­tive im­pacts that beef pro­duc­ers pro­vide here on the Cen­tral Coast:

Ground­wa­ter cap­ture: Range­lands, which make up ap­prox­i­mately half of the acreage in the county, serve as wa­ter­sheds to cap­ture and re­store ground­wa­ter basins. This has been an im­por­tant ben­e­fit since we have been drought stricken for the ma­jor­ity of the past 10 years.

Fire pro­tec­tion: If our beef cat­tle were not graz­ing these ar­eas, it would cre­ate a con­tin­u­ous fuel bed for cat­a­strophic fires to wipe out en­tire com­mu­ni­ties. Some re­cent ex­am­ples of cat­a­strophic fires that shared our same land­scape were the Camp Fire that killed 85 peo­ple and de­stroyed 14,000 struc­tures, and the Carr Fire that killed eight and de­stroyed just un­der 1,600 struc­tures.

Nat­u­ral brush con­trol: De­fen­si­ble space at­tained through nat­u­ral graz­ing has less im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife and pro­vides a smaller car­bon foot­print than bring­ing in mech­a­nized equip­ment.

Man­u­fac­ture of byprod­ucts: When a beef an­i­mal is har­vested, 99 per­fect of that an­i­mal is uti­lized for con­sump­tion or turned into a byprod­uct. Beef is uti­lized for prod­ucts such as sports equip­ment and balls, upholstery, lubri­cants, house­hold clean­ing prod­ucts, dish soap, groom­ing prod­ucts such as nail pol­ish re­mover, lo­tions and makeup. Other not-so-com­mon byprod­ucts of beef that are ne­ces­si­ties to those in the med­i­cal field are items such as burn oint­ments, first aid creams and an­tire­jec­tion drugs for use af­ter or­gan trans­plants.

Open space pro­tec­tion: Graz­ing lands pro­vide habi­tat for var­i­ous wildlife species, plant life and the “su­per bloom” flow­ers we’re cur­rently en­joy­ing. As you drive through­out the coastal moun­tains of Cayu­cos, ride your bike through the Filip­poni Ranch in San Luis Obispo or en­joy the scenery of wide open spa­ces in the North County, think about who has pro­vided this lovely view for you to en­joy. More than likely it has been a rancher or farmer — one who has been prac­tic­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and car­ing for the land for many gen­er­a­tions.

Ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness of our in­dus­try are among the top pri­or­i­ties of the San Luis Obispo County Cat­tle­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion. Feel free to reach out to us to ask ques­tions and for a ranch tour. You will be able to see first­hand what land con­ser­vancy and ste­ward­ship look like here on the Cen­tral Coast.

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