RANCH MUSINGS: Don’t throw out the lifestyle along with the business

Conserve the knowledge needed to thrive along with any new science
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Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Sometimes I feel like a medical tourist in my hometown. This is to say that as we age, we might have to spend more time trying to look after our health.

When I go to town, I often have a full briefcase, just in case I get some free time between appointments. Too much coffee shop time is not good for me. Better to visit old friends and current ranch business associates!

My interests include our area history (and prehistory for example written history) so as to keep some perspective on where we came from and current events and knowledge development related particularly to the land.

There has been significant recognition of Indigenous practices of burning to keep the forest and grasslands healthy and somewhat fireproofed.

We all want to know about being resilient in the face of drought. Water is, after all, a most essential element.

Many of us are looking at possible runoff water storage in dams that will provide public benefits: fisheries, firefighting water sources, biodiversity, irrigation of food crops and recreation. All of us stakeholders need to share the cost of this aspect of water conservation.

Government recognizes this, and has provided funding for water infrastructure and efficient use of a reducing resource.

To get through these challenging times, we will need to respect our elder’s age-old experiences and accumulated knowledge.

Droughts in the 1920s in the US Midwest drove our family to this area of perhaps “greener pastures.” Around the world today there are climate (and food) refugees by the millions.

There are quite a few “dry farms” in the central Interior reflecting struggles for water and homesteaders selling out to larger places. Small cities of Indigenous people in the US Southwest are today just relics of their former thriving selves because rivers had dried up and they had to move.

I know ranchers around the Interior will continue to search out mobile water tanks for supplying range water for cattle and find more efficient watering systems (such as pivots).

We need to keep caretakers on the land. It is this that I referred to in my opening of this article. I want to stay on the land as my life shifts from full-time ranching to being part of an extended family venture.

There are the lifestyle aspects of being close to the land we call our home place: wildlife, wilderness, pasture, grasslands, livestock. As land-based businesses morph - grow and contract, change - we need to remember to conserve the knowledge needed to thrive along with any new science that has been generated for adaptation of agriculture to a changing climate.

David Zirnhelt is a longtime rancher in the Cariboo and the current president of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association.