GLCI-Foraging for Healthy Ecosystems

There’s more to what meets the eye when you look out over billowy pasture land.

GLICThat’s what the Hawai’i Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Committee (GLCI) says in its effort to promote the sound management and skillful use of Hawai’i’s grazing lands.

What’s a Grazier?

Founded in 2006, the statewide organization is a partnership of graziers-the word collectively defines people who manage grazing animals and utilize grazing lands to produce animal products, by-products and ecosystem services. They farm grass.

Since its founding, GLCI works in coordination with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)-Pacific Islands Area, the Hawai’i Cattlemen’s Council, the Hawai`i Sheep and Goat Association and other partners to further the grazing industry’s contribution to natural resource and ecosystem conservation while continuing to promote economically viable ranch operations.

Since its inception GLCI has been busy educating the public on the importance of well-managed grazing lands.

Need for Good Grazing Lands

Hawai'i GLCI

Hawai'i GLCI Desmond Auweloa (photo credit)

Grazing lands comprise nearly a quarter of the state’s 4.11 million-acre land mass. The most noticeable benefit of well-managed grazing lands is beauty-everyone appreciates open space and vistas. It’s also easy to understand that healthy pastureland is food security as a properly grazed ranch translates to high quality meat, especially when processed locally.

However, well-managed grazing lands also offer other benefits: they reduce the risk of wildfires, modulate sedimentation (slow erosion), recharge groundwater, sequester carbon and control the introduction and spread of invasive species. A pasture of healthy forage conserves soil, habitat and wildlife resources.

Hawai'i GLCI

Hawai'i GLCI Loretta J. Metz (photo credit)

“Well-managed grazing lands are associated with healthy watersheds, which are vital to Hawai’i’s future,” says Lori Metz, GLCI technical advisor and the state’s grazing land management specialist for NRCS-Pacific Islands.

She explains that properly managed land helps with catching rain. Healthy forage, with a thriving root system, keeps water in the soil longer, making precious precipitation easier for growing pasture grass to absorb.

“Land covered with a crop of forage also checks soil erosion during hard rains,” Lori continues.

While carbon sequestration (the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere) is most often associated with trees, it’s also done by grass. Lori says grass captures carbon and stores it in its roots. “Carbon translates into healthier plant structure and high quality forage,” she adds.  That means healthy pastures help fight global warming.

HI-GLCI offers periodic workshops and field trips on its website that are geared for graziers and food producers. However, the organization will be offering info soon for the public on its ecosystem services. Visit www.grazinglandshawaii.org or phone 885-5599 (Hawai’i Island). Find more info on how grass-fed beef benefits our environment on past Taste It blogs:

Graze Anatomy: ‘Plant’ a Cow to Reduce Global Warming and Americans name ranching a top ‘green’ profession

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