[acn-l] fencing cows out of creeks (fwd)

peter.unmack at asu.edu
Mon, 20 Mar 2000 09:18:42 -0700 (MST)

A good story for a change....

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000 08:07:17 -0800
From: "Peter Y. Dobbins (by way of Alan Levine <alevine at mail.mcn.org>)"
<pdobbins at MCN.ORG>
Reply-To: Fish Habitat <FISHHABITAT at BOBO.NWS.ORST.EDU>,
"Peter Y. Dobbins (by way of Alan Levine <alevine at mail.mcn.org>)"
<pdobbins at MCN.ORG>
To: Multiple recipients of list FISHHABITAT <FISHHABITAT at BOBO.NWS.ORST.EDU>
Subject: fencing cows out of creeks

Get cows out of creeks - it is happening in one case - see below article:

Partners in creek

Cattle fenced out to help
restore wildlife

Mar. 19, 2000

Press Democrat Bureau

PETALUMA -- Merv Sartori
remembers runs of steelhead and
salmon so thick his father and uncle
would spear them for dinner with a
pitchfork on the family ranch.

Now, after decades of neglect, the
waters of Adobe Creek are showing
signs of life as restoration efforts
reverse damage.

Sartori, a 69-year-old cattle rancher
who was born, as his father was, in
the farmhouse on his 614-acre
Sonoma Mountain homestead, is now
playing a role in the creek's

In a partnership that state and federal
officials hope will be repeated on
other ranches, Sartori agreed to
allow more than four miles of
wildlife-sensitive fencing to close
off the creek from his herd of cattle.

"This section of creek is going to
heal,'' said Bob Snyder of the state
Department of Fish and Game, who
is optimistic it will help restore runs
of the federally protected steelhead.
"We're hoping future generations are
going to appreciate that.''

Sartori's herd of about 650 cows,
calves and steers would wander into
the creek each day to drink, keep
cool and eat the creekside

The heavy-hooved herd damaged the
slopes, causing landslides and
erosion and sending silt and manure
into the waters of Adobe Creek.

Using state and federal grants of
$30,000, inexpensive labor from
Department of Forestry inmate crews
and with help from the landowner,
new fencing was strung the length of
the Sartori ranch over three months
this winter. The last gates are
expected to be installed by the end of

The cattle now drink out of their old
water troughs and have to find other
areas of shade.

Sartori said he hopes it will help the
creek restore itself and bring a return
to healthy runs of steelhead.

"The creek's going to overgrow
because the cattle won't be in there to
beat it down,'' Sartori said. "That's
what the fish like, is a lot of cover. It
will keep the erosion down, no doubt
about it.''

State and federal officials are hoping
the project will prove to other
ranchers that they can be trusted to
complete a project that will benefit
ranchers as well as the habitat.

Ranchers win because they can stop
erosion from claiming more and
more of their grazing land.

But there are trade-offs. Other water
sources need to be found for the
cattle and some of the grazing land
near the creek is lost.

Sartori also agreed to maintain the
fences for 10 years, but he expects
them to last much longer without
much maintenance.

Snyder, who supervised the project,
said landowners typically are
suspicious about forming
partnerships with government
agencies, fearing greater restrictions
on ranching. He said those concerns
will fade as they work with more

Steve Thompson of the National
Marine Fisheries Service is urging
landowners to pursue similar

"We're anxious to work with them,''
Thompson said. "We're making
inroads where we can.''

Most of the creeks on the North
Coast remain unfenced and open to
cattle, officials said.

Snyder said he had to assure Sartori
that the project would not open his
land to agency or public use.

"It does not change trespass and
property owners' rights,'' Snyder

More plans are in the works for the
Sartori ranch. Funding is being
sought for stabilizing slipping banks
with rock riprap.

The United Anglers of Casa Grande,
a high school organization that has
spent years restoring the lower
reaches of Adobe Creek, has offered
to help plant the willows, California
blackberry, broad leaf maple and oak
trees that will finish off the project,
giving the habitat restoration a

The fence, 22,000 feet of it, has three
strings of barbed wire above one
string of smooth wire. It is designed
to keep cattle out while allowing
access to deer, rabbits, foxes,
bobcats and other wildlife.

The pools in the creek will remain
cooler, shaded from the sun by the
new trees and brush, providing more
oxygen to the fish populations in a
better climate, Snyder said.

As the habitat and fish populations
improve, Snyder said other species
will be attracted to the creek,
including bobcats and birds such as
hawks, ducks, quail and wild

The National Marine Fisheries
Service already coordinated the
construction of a rock fish ladder on
the creek at Adobe Road at the base
of Sonoma Mountain. In 1998, the
fish ladder re-opened several miles
of upstream spawning grounds in
Adobe Creek to migrating steelhead
for the first time in decades.

Sartori said he expects protection of
streams from cattle will become
mandatory in future years, part of the
reason he chose to have the project
done with little personal expense.

Snyder said his goal is to fence the
entire Adobe Creek in its Sonoma
Mountain descent through cattle
grazing lands, from the city's Lafferty
Ranch property near the top of
Sonoma Mountain to the last cattle
ranch in the Petaluma Valley.

"That's our hope and objective,'' he

He expects it will be done with
federal, state and local grants, maybe
with some landowner funds or
assistance. He also hopes the project
will move to other streams in the
area, including Lynch Creek and
Lichau Creek.

Sonoma County District Attorney
Mike Mullins has taken a more
aggressive approach in the past five
years against cows in creeks,
pursuing civil and criminal manure
pollution violations against ranchers.

"We would prefer a cooperative
approach where we don't use laws
and regulations and cause problems
with agriculture,'' Snyder said.
"There's no need to talk regulations if
you don't need to.''
Peter Y. Dobbins
P.O. Box 355
Point Arena, CA

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