Skyline Ridge open for cattle grazing

Cattle grazing, once a regular feature of two former ranches in San Mateo County's Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, will soon return to the area, this time with an eye toward conservation and fire prevention.

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District announced Thursday it will accept proposals for grazing tenants at the former Big Dipper and Silva ranches, spanning 995 acres of preserve lands, about a quarter of which is hillside grassland where cattle grazing began in the 1920s.

The district's new cattle grazing plan, however, is designed with ecological sustainability, as well as continued public access and a boost to the local agricultural economy, in mind.

“With proper management, grazing has proven to be one of the few effective tools available to public agencies for managing expansive tracts of grassland,” district resource planner Kirk Lenington said.

According to Lenington, cattle usually prefer dining on non-native grasses, a boon for native vegetation while also cutting down on potential fuel for wildland fires.

“The cattle will be carefully monitored and rotated between pastures to reduce the potential for inappropriate or erosive grazing, or impeding the growth of native wildflowers and grasses,” Lenington added.

Proposals from potential grazing tenants must be submitted by Nov. 19, and preference will be given to local ranchers, according to the district.

The 2,143-acre Skyline Ridge preserve, located along a scenic stretch of rolling hills and meadows in southern San Mateo County bordered by Skyline Boulevard, encompasses a 3-mile section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and offers hiking trails along Alpine Pond and Horseshoe Lake.

— Bay City News

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