Cattle graze in an open meadow along Highway 20 Friday, where much of the forest surrounding it has been burned from the Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire. Angie Mindus photo

Cattle graze in an open meadow along Highway 20 Friday, where much of the forest surrounding it has been burned from the Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire. Angie Mindus photo

OPINION: Hopeful rebuilding after the fires

What is ahead for ranchers

David Zirnhelt

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

In my last column (two weeks ago) I mused about the long-term effects of warming and fires and the return of long ago historic expanses of grasslands. The woodlands and forest have been good for our economy in the short to medium term.

The enemy of the short term forest economy is probably good for the long-term ecological health of the forest. But I will wait for some of the experts to give opinions.

I was glad to see some blackened trees in log form on a truck today, the first I have seen. I hope much is salvaged and that enough course debris is left to mother the next generation of forest.

The flush of forbs, grass and brush will undoubtedly be good for many of the grazing and browsing animals.

There will be room on the opened forest range for many cattle and some horses.

My concern is that the shock of the fire will leave many ranch operators thinking the reestablishment of their ranches is too much. Many will rebound but will this disaster take out a few?

Notwithstanding government support and various assistance from neighbours and the Red Cross, will there be enough resilience for a full recovery? The forest has a lot more time on its side to rebound.

Many of us are at the end of our career in ranching, and don’t have a couple of decades to rebuild.

When we rebuild, after any major calamity: natural, economic or accidental, more than ever we need a vision and the capacity to manage through it. It might become the time to pass the torch to the next generation.

Theirs would be the challenge to recover what they can and in the process support our retirement. We in turn can support the next generation.

Let the new generation take the risks, do the hard business planning, development work, market assessments and just plain hard physical work and thrive in the process.

We, the older generation can be moral support, providers of wisdom and knowledge, and general “helpers” wherever needed to rebuild our families’ legacies.

I don’t think we should rebuild exactly what we had. Instead let’s rebuild with what we need to be a low cost producer. All our machinery and facilities should be taking us towards that end.

New technologies and infrastructure need not just produce more, but should lower the cost of the production.

That would be hopeful rebuilding.