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Grazing plan unfinished for backyard ranchers

For years Lake Tahoe regulators have chewed on the issue of grazing in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and Wednesday they finally took action on it – partially anyway.

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Wednesday approved an ordinance that will require ranch owners to come up with grazing management plans by 2002, in order to minimize the impact of cattle on water quality in the basin. Another ordinance proposed by staff was continued, however. The issue involved residents who own a limited amount of livestock not used for commercial purposes.

Those residents, if TRPA’s proposed resolution is passed, will be required to upgrade their livestock containment facilities – corrals or barns – by 2001.



“I don’t think we need to get down to the level of these backyard animals,” said Jim Galloway, the Washoe County representative on the agency’s governing board in disagreeing with the proposal. “We have no quantitative justification that this is significant. If we keep (regulating) anything and everything, we’ll be regulating dog droppings.”

Grazing is believed to have an impact on the water quality of the streams running into Lake Tahoe, most significantly from additional sediment runoff but also from pathogens from manure.




TRPA staff indicated it was unable say exactly how much grazing impacts Lake Tahoe but considered it significant.

Based on a 1997 revision to TRPA code, all property owners around Lake Tahoe, unless it has already been done, will need to upgraded with TRPA’s Best Management Practices eventually. The upgrades for residential livestock owners falls into that category.

Joe Pepi, a TRPA planner, said many of the BMPs for residential homes likely will cost more than those fore the livestock containment facilities. Also, a low-interest loan is available for California residents wishing to implement BMPs, Pepi said, which will work for residences, businesses and livestock containment facilities.

A conservative estimate of the number of parcels which would be subject to the livestock BMPs is about 50, according to TRPA. The residential livestock issue likely will be addressed again within six months.

For the large grazing operations in the basin, the grazing management plans could cost up to several thousand dollars, depending on the location and size of the ranch. Pepi said it is difficult to estimate implementation costs because each of the basin’s major grazing pastures are different. Rough estimates for planning and implementation range from a few thousand dollars up to possibly more than $100,000 for some ranches on large portions of U.S. Forest Service land.

As part of its Sierra Nevada Framework, however, the Forest Service plans to adopt similar regulations and will be making the changes regardless of TRPA’s action, Pepi said.

Pepi said several resource agencies have indicated a willingness to help fund the planning and upgrading of the ranches.

Several members of the public spoke to the board about the action.

Shirley Giovacchini, who owns a 2,000-acre pasture around Cold Creek, said the adopted action may cost her significant amount of money and wasn’t necessary.

“I can guarantee my cattle do not spend an inordinate amount of time around streams,” she said.

Dave Roberts of the League to Save Lake Tahoe said BMP requirements for the livestock containment facilities were necessary.

“(The issue) is going to have to be addressed one way or the other. It is a problem. It is going to continue to be a problem unless this board takes action to correct the problem,” he said. “BMPs are BMPs, regardless of what’s causing the problem.”

Shirley Taylor, owner of the 60-acre Celio Ranch in Meyers, said she believed the regulation would put several ranchers out of business.

“I believe, by 2001, there will only be four of us left,” she said.

Gabby Barrett, TRPA’s chief of long-range planning, said he did not think that would happen and also told the board not to lose site of its main goal – saving and preserving Lake Tahoe.

“There is a problem out there with that lake. Let’s not forget that,” he said. “This is not an attempt to eliminate those facilities. All we’re saying is put BMPs on them … There can be some impacts (to livestock owners) but we’ll do our best to not have that. On the other hand, we need BMPs.”

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