By Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Hamburgers, stew, pot roast, leather, milk and notably steak: What else are cows good for?
During the winter and spring months they are used on Beale Air Force Base to suppress fire danger, reduce invasive weeds, protect endangered species habitat, and harbor a relationship between the base and the local ranching community.
“We house between 1,700 and 2,500 cattle each year,” said Chuck Carroll, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron natural resource manager. “Beale has a lot of wide open spaces. This is valuable, undisturbed habitat for cattle and wildlife species.”
As the cattle graze, they eat the tall grass growing in the valley’s fertile, moist soil. Carroll said the 23,000 acres of space at Beale would be an unmanageable fire danger without the animals.
Along with reducing fire danger by eating the weeds, the reduction in invasive species maintains habitat for vernal pools. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands found in very few places. These pools are home to many endangered or threatened species of plants and animals.
“The bovines here have a dual purpose; they help us with our needs, and then they are sent to market as food,” Carroll said.
The cattle belong to local ranchers in need of open space. However, these ranchers need a liaison with the base. The base needs an expert to maintain fences, roads, watering systems and property. This is where Ed Broskey comes in.
Broskey has been Beale’s biological science technician since 1998, but is more well know as “the base cowboy.”
According to Broskey, grazing has been going on since just after WWII. The land was open because of reduced training needs and ranchers needed the space. Fences went up and corals were built to make the base more viable for the program. The positive environmental impact was noted only recently.
“I’ve been out here for 14 years. I look forward to the annual improvements every year,” Broskey said. “No day is the same. I get to work with every base agency; a little bit of everybody gets involved. This isn’t your normal nine to five, but I wouldn’t trade it for any other job.”
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