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As another round of wildfires ravages the West, the question arises, as it does every year...

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What’s the best way to get plants growing quickly on land now so susceptible to flash flooding and catastrophic erosion?

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In the 1980s a couple of innovative ranchers discovered that the most effective way to heal very damaged land is by enlisting the help of animals.

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This is a pile of copper mine tailings near Globe, Arizona — a pile of sterile rock dust 300 feet high and 1,100 acres huge.

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In 1989 an Arizona rancher spread seeds and hay on that pile and enlisted the help of cows to till-in and fertilize the mix.

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Note: This is not a grazing program. In most cases there’s nothing to graze. This is a land restoration process employing animals as the primary restorers. In 1989 an Arizona rancher spread seeds and hay on that pile and enlisted the help of cows to till-in and fertilize the mix.

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This is the result. Before After - Grass all the way to the top.

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on a gold mine in Nevada. Here’s another example of working with animals to heal very damaged land...

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Two Nevada ranchers tackled that challenge with seeds, hay, and cows.

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Gold mine near Austin, Nevada, October 1989 Restoration is in progress. Seeds have been spread. Cows are eating, trampling and fertilizing. Same mine 8 months after restoration. 1 year after restoration

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This land was burned by a large wildfire near Grand Junction, Colorado, 4 years before this photo was taken. So, what does this have to do with fire?

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It was a big fire.

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In this case, a flock of sheep provided the “restoration workers.”

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The results one year later. Before After

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These photos were taken in May 2011. The Schultz Pass Fire near Flagstaff, Arizona, burned in June 2010.

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The fire burned so hot it caused rocks to split. The intense heat sterilized the soil and capped it with a rain-repelling crust.

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When a storm dumped 2 inches of rain on those crusted slopes it caused a huge flashflood, one fatality, and much damage to nearby homes and property.

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To keep that from happening again, an effort to revegetate the land included dropping bales of straw from helicopters.

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Not tilled into the soil, the straw remained on the surface to wash or blow away.

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21 21 The same tactic (spreading straw without tilling) was tried after a large wildfire threatened Arizona’s spectacular Oak Creek Canyon with catastrophic flooding.

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How well do animals counter erosion by tilling in added organic material? The Globe mine restoration cattle trampled organic matter 12 inches and more into the loose tailings creating a foot of living soil.

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How well does that resist erosion?

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This is that same Globe mine slope still resisting erosion (and getting a little touchup) 17 years after restoration. Before

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The question is, if animal-aided revegetation can turn challenges like this...

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into successes like this...

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and this...

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Why aren’t we using animal-assisted methods to turn land devastated by wildfire...

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into green growing land like this?