Benefits of Ecosystem Restoration

February 24, 2020

Pasture Raised Meats You Can TRUST
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find healthy functioning ecosystems today in our world.

We see around us:
polluted water
erosion
lack of diversity
decline in insects and song birds
decline in wildlife as a whole
Seems pretty grim...

What can be done?

Well, this was the topic of a speech Sean and I gave yesterday at the Harvest and Hearth conference at the College of Idaho.

We were asked to speak about the Benefits of Ecosystem Restoration.

It seems like a complicated topic, but what it really means is restoring the land around us to a healthy, functioning landscape that includes a diverse mixture of plants, animals and people.

On our ranch we have been continuing the work Sean's father started (40+ years) with restoring ecosystem function back to our ranch after a poor prior history of overgrazing when this part of the country was settled.

Through proper management we can restore degraded landscapes back to proper functioning, but it takes more than just management, it also takes and understanding and appreciation of stewardship.

If we are stewards of the land we realize that this land is not our own, it was given to us by God to manage and to care for. It makes us see beyond the short term and look at the long-term health and future of the property we have been called to manage.

On our ranch we have 3 main types of ecosystems:

1. Irrigated Native Meadows
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Irrigated meadows are the backbone of our ranch. They are highly productive, flood irrigated ground that makes amazing feed and forage for our animals.

Over 30 years ago my father stopped using chemical fertilizers on our property. At the time our organic matter on the ranch was only 3-4% in the meadows and now today it is between 5-8% depending on which part of the meadows is sampled. A 1% increase in organic matters increases the amount of water that can be stored by 25,000 gallons per acre. That means that when it rains that the water stays in the ground and doesn't take off topsoil and pollute the steams and rivers.

Increased Organic Matter > Healthy Soil > Healthy Plants > Healthy Livestock > Health People

Our entire business is actually based around soil health, so if the soil is healthy it directly affects us all the way up to the human person!

2. Native Rangeland
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The native rangeland that we are surrounded by was historically overgrazed in the early days of this part of the United States.

Since we only get 8-10 inches of rainfall a year this makes this type of landscape very brittle, meaning if damage is done to it, it takes a LONG time to recover, thankfully we are at a very good place now with our rangeland where it has been recovering very nicely for the last 50+ years.

Through proper management and stewardship the rangeland is actually a very productive land that is RICH in diversity of plants and wildlife.

By knowing the critical growing season of the rangeland we are able to manage our cattle appropriately to allow the grass to grow to its potential and still stimulate its growth by proper grazing management.

We see a very bright future for the rangeland at this point!

3. Riparian Areas
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Riparian areas are typically very diverse creek bottoms that are thick with trees, willows, cat tails and support an abundance of wildlife.

These areas were also historically overgrazed and had very little willows on them less than 30 years ago.

Temporary electric fencing has allowed us to manage these riparian areas and allow explosive growth of willows to happen.

This has allowed beavers to move back into our creeks and start making dams. These dams are critical for restoring the water table back to a functional height. Instead of 4 foot deep creek bank the water is now to the top of them due to the beavers making dams that back the water up.

This has been one of the coolest and quickest transformations that we have seen on our ranch, since it's only been about 4 years since the beavers have moved in. We used to be able to jump across the creek in most spots to get to the other side. Now if you want to cross the creek you have to cross on a beaver dam or go for a swim because the water is about 2-3 feet deep in most spots.

By raising the water table, we are less prone to drought and allows our meadows to grow longer even after our water is done for the season.

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The future all the ecosystems on our ranch are looking very good.

As we see more species of plants and animals emerge every year we know that we are headed in the right direction to restoring our ecosystems to their full function.

It is through the support of amazing customers, like you, who, not only care about your health, but the health of the land that make all this work possible.

So thank you for all your support and you can feel good about eating the meat you have bought from us, because you know you are making a direct impact on health of the land.

Sincerely,

- Liz

Liz Cunningham
Cunningham Pastured Meats
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Liz Cunningham

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