Column: Climate variation, change, whatever: April fools?

Whatever is being visited upon us with respect to record warm spells and extreme weather events, let’s not just blame the Creator.

Whatever is being visited upon us with respect to record warm spells and extreme weather events, let’s not just blame the Creator (however you define Her/Him).

A record amount of carbon in the atmosphere is melting glaciers and ice caps the world over. We are becoming more dependent on water stored in soil and diverted to surface storage and underground storage. We are all responsible.

In the Cariboo, the agriculture sector has been working with levels of government on some strategic actions to help us adapt to and mitigate the recent climate change impacts.

Work has been proceeding on three projects in the Cariboo/Chilcotin.

First, there has been work underway looking at agriculturally significant dams and researching some of the benefits in addition to irrigation, e.g. moderating flow of water and supporting fish habitat and a diverse set of living creatures benefitting from storage ponds and downstream flows.

Government has been trying to make all the financial responsibility that of the water storage license holders, even though the dams provide many other Ecological Goods and Services (EG&S).

The report from the Cariboo has now raised this issue with the B.C. government. Work is continuing to try to spread the costs to all the beneficiaries of the water storage system.

Second, a Wildfire Preparedness process has been underway which will result in some recommendations and a locally developed manual on how we can be ready for the inevitable wildfires during these dry years. Also the project is looking at how to best protect our far-flung homesteads, eg. having mini sprinkler systems ready to place on and around our buildings during the threat of fire.

The third project has been to  focus on the surface water sources available for livestock watering on range, which is critical to effective management of our extensive rangelands.

Some ponds are recharged and others are not. What do we do during droughts? This project is just getting under way again, after a false start. Volunteers are working with the B.C. government officials and consultants who do the field work.

A fourth project is about to get underway pending funding approvals: the development of a Regional Agriculture Research Advisory Organization.

As government pulls back from providing information to agriculture stakeholders, it becomes necessary for producers and other stakeholders in the regions to collaborate and show leadership and take charge of our needs. We need a place to keep relevant information about agriculture in our region.

And we need to have the capacity to manage and develop information such as how to grow climatically adapted crops. This will take trials and demonstration led and overseen right here in our regions.

Most of us are relatively small producers with out the wherewithal to undertake applied research and farm trials. So we have to collaborate with our neighbours and our universities to take charge.

This work will hopefully ramp up over the summer and carry on into the fall. All agricultural organizations will be encouraged to participate.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.