BOUNDARY ENVIRONMENTAL ALLIANCE
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If your water supply is downstream of rangeland (public-land) you should be aware of the likelihood that the stream water is contaminated. If you are confident that your well is sufficiently distant from stream flows so that filtration fully removes fecal coliforms and other associated pathogens as well as general coliforms, you might chose to confirm that with water testing.
If your water tests positive for e-coli/fecal coliforms you might assume that the contamination is as a result of the range-cows milling about in the upstream riparian areas. That would be a reasonable assumption according to an abundance of studies linking water contamination with cattle access to streams.
If you were aware that the Range Act purports to “Protect and enhance water quality” you might contact Range Branch with your concerns. You might be surprised to hear from Range Branch that the contamination “if it exists” is likely due to other sources; wildlife, birds, recreational users etc. If you have seen heavy impact upstream by cows and little evidence of the other sources, you might question Range Branch’s assessment and also ask why the range area has no water sources or troughs to provide off-stream watering. You might be surprised to be told that Range Branch, although responsible for generating and overseeing Range Plans that supposedly protect and enhance water quality, actually do no water testing and that “it is difficult” for ranchers to maintain water sources and troughs as hunters and other vandals damage them.
You might then decide to start a water testing program on your stream to see if there is some connection between cows and contamination. You might also get some friends to do an informal survey on a number of different range-tenures and you might find that most watering troughs (where they exist at all) are non-functional and in no case did you find any evidence of willful damage. You might be surprised to see that these troughs were non-functional due to rotted supports, washouts (due to poor initial placement right in stream-bed) siltation, trampled intakes where rotted fencing had once protected the intake. You might be more surprised that these troughs (where they exist) were largely financed by public-funds in past years.
When your water testing results were in you might be surprised to find that for the three months prior to the arrival of cows there are zero or near zero fecal coliform counts. After cows arrive you might find levels of e-coli of 800 to 900 colonies per 100ml., in in-stream dugouts you might find counts of 16,000 or more colonies/100ml. A few months after the cows left the watershed you might find stream counts back to zero or near zero. You might conclude that you have established that background levels of e-coli from wildlife, birds, recreational users etc is negligible or zero and that your test results provide compelling evidence that cows are responsible for most or all of the contamination.
By now not so easily surprised, you might conclude from your contacts with Range Branch that, rather than representing and protecting public-lands and resources they are effectively acting as apologists for the ranchers.
If you were then aware that Range Plans and Range activities are overseen by the Forest & Range Evaluation Program which purports to:
"To be a world leader in resource stewardship, monitoring and effectiveness evaluations; providing the science-based informationneeded for decision making and continuous improvement of B.C.'s forest and range practices."
You might therefore have expected that FREP might have done some water testing somewhere to see if the Range Plans and range practices were accomplishing the stated goals.
You might then want to join with us to demand that Range Plans and practices protect public resources, water, water quality, riparian zones, sensitive grasslands and habitat, where they are now being degraded by current practices.
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