B.C. extends ranchers’ leases

CRESTON, B.C. — The British Columbia government has extended ranchers’ grazing leases in new legislation passed earlier this year.

Bill 5 amended timber and grazing tenure agreements on crown land. It also extended the term of hay cutting licences from 10 to 15 and 25 years and lengthened grazing permits from 15 to 25 years.

“They have been listening to us, and it seemed for so many years we couldn’t do much,” David Haywood-Farmer, past-president of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, told the group’s annual meeting, held in Creston May 22-24.

“It gives us more security on the land base. It is good stuff.”

Now that leases have been extended, ranchers who rely on crown land want the government to pay more attention to the development of grasslands. Large tracts of land were denuded when mountain pine beetles killed millions of trees. Dead trees were removed and the forage remains.

The timber industry has a long-term outlook for the management of the land, but there is no specific plan for forage.

“They just do a timber plan now,” said rancher Larry Garrett of Vanderhoof.

“They could care less about the grass. I am worried that a planned sustainable forage supply responsibility would be dumped back on us.”

Producers said more pressure should be placed on the government and the timber industry to allow water development projects and restoration of grasslands in a sustainable manner until the trees regrow, Garrett said.

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