Group hopes controlled grazing helps air

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Western Counties Alliance is proposing a new way to reduce greenhouse grasses. By planning and controlling the times cattle can graze, the organization believes the natural process of photosynthesis can help keep carbon in the soil and out of the air. “This has implications on fossil fuel use,” Alliance policy expert Sheldon Kinsel told lawmakers last month during the legislative interim meeting. “There is a tremendous potential economically and environmentally. I cannot overemphasize how much there is to be gained.” The Western Counties Alliance is made up of several counties in the western United States, including Utah’s Cache, Rich, Duchesne, Carbon, Juab, Wayne, Box Elder, Garfield, Kane, San Pete and Tooele counties. The timed grazing idea is being tested at a Rich County ranch owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ranchers let animals graze on one field at a time for just a few weeks. That puts the grasses in regrowth mode and causes them to bring more carbon atoms into the ground. Fungi that act as pipelines between the plants and soil interact with microorganisms, so when the right fungi are used, the dead organisms help keep the carbon on the ground rather than in the skies. The Rich County project is being watched closely by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, which is trying to set up a similar project with other private landowners nearby, said department spokesman Larry Lewis. With the right microbes and fungi, carbon can remain in the soil for thousands of years and would be safe, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist Kristine Nichols. “Within the scientific community there are a lot of people who believe that soil is a big part of the solution,” she said. “How to go about doing that and what are some of the best methodologies and how fast that can happen is debated a little bit, because we don’t know how all of the systems work.”

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