Developer Luigi Mandarino hopes to receive a temporary permit to graze cattle at the end of Westridge Drive as a fire mitigation strategy. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Developer Luigi Mandarino hopes to receive a temporary permit to graze cattle at the end of Westridge Drive as a fire mitigation strategy. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Developer pitches cattle for wildfire hazard reduction

Luigi Mandarino is hoping to use grazing cattle as a means to mitigate wildfire hazards in the Westridge area.

A Williams Lake developer hopes to use grazing cattle as a way to reduce wildfire hazards in his neighbourhood.

Developer Luigi Mandarino has applied for a three-year temporary use permit to allow cattle to graze on several lots of open land at the end of Westridge Drive.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and suggesting it for years,” Mandarino told the Tribune, noting the cattle that would graze there belong to Chimney Creek Stafford Ranch owner Bill Stafford.

City council received Mandarino’s application for the temporary permit at its Feb. 6 regular meeting.

Coun. Scott Nelson commended Mandarino for the incentive, calling it “Cariboo ingenuity at its best.”

“I think it’s an absolutely masterful idea,” Nelson said. “I support the idea. It’s something that will help reduce potential fires in that area. You can actually see where there were fires before and where the cattle have been eating grass it literally stops the fire at that point.”

Councillor Craig Smith echoed Nelson saying it was a great idea, but his one concern was noise levels.

“I’ve worked on a ranch so I know how loud cows can be. How close is the closest home?” Smith asked.

Mandarino said “100 metres.”

Council unanimously approved moving the application forward for public feedback and directed staff to issue notices of the application to property owners and tenants within a 100-metre radius of the subject property.

The city’s director of development services Leah Hartley said Thursday she anticipates the notices will go out to residents some time next week.

Mandarino told council he will invest about $30,000 to put up proper fencing that will meet Ministry of Forests standards.

“I think it is worth it if it prevents fires,” he said after the meeting. “My house is above it and the other homes in the neighbourhood are right there too.”

Stafford said if the permit is approved he will bring 30 or more cattle onto the area to graze.

“It works 100 per cent,” he said of the fire mitigation concept. “It’s a no-brainer.

“You take all that old grass and get rid of it and the fires have nothing to go on.”

Historically Stafford has grazed his cows near that area of the city for years, but said he was recently moved out because of broken fencing and the proximity to the golf course of the grazing area he normally uses.

“If I bring the cattle in they have to have proper fencing,” Stafford said.

“We would like to see the City fence all the city lands as well on that side of town in and around the golf course.”

Stafford has ranched for 60 years in the region and his father for 93 years before him.

“We’ve been there a long time and were ranching before there was a city,” he added.