The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service announced that targeted cattle grazing successfully contained three rangeland wildfires in the Great Basin over a four year period, most recently on July 18, when the Welch fire near Elko, Nev., was successfully stopped when it began burning an area where targeted grazing had been carried out.

The targeted grazing took place as part of a large study ARS is conducting, which aims to use cattle grazing to create fuel breaks to slow wildfires without causing grazing-related harm to the rangelands.

Targeted grazing takes place in early spring, when the cattle consume large strips of highly flammable cheatgrass, cutting it down to 1 or 2 inches, in strategic areas.

The goal is that when small rangeland fires begin, the reduced fuel loads will slow their growth and reduce their size.

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“These fuel breaks are intended to slow a fire's rate of spread, make it less intense, and provide time and space for firefighters to arrive and more safely attack and contain the fire," said Pat Clark, an ARS rangeland scientist who oversaw the study. "That's just what appears to have happened for the Welch fire."

The ARS study is being conducted at nine sites throughout the northern Great Basin in Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada. 

Though all the sites are at high risk of fire, Nevada’s fuel breaks are the only sites to be directly tested by wildfires.

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