Conservation efforts pay off
In 1854, the great-great-grandfather of John Reader and Fred Langdon settled some land above the South Fork Yuba River, and five generations later, they are proud to still work the property.
The brothers manage the cattle operation of the Reader Ranch on nearly 1,000 acres near North San Juan. They run cattle there in the fall and spring.
The family also continues an old tradition with one of Nevada County’s few remaining cattle drives, when they round up cows from summer pasture near Allegheny and drive them along Highway 49 at the Middle Fork Yuba River and back to the ranch.
Some of Langdon’s and Reader’s other traditional practices – and a few technological innovations – earned them the 2006 Conservationist of the Year Award from the county’s Resource Conservation District at a recent banquet.
“It’s really, really nice to have the recognition that we really are good stewards of the land,” Reader said. “We’ve worked so hard to earn it. Our great-great-grandfather settled here. We’re really proud to be able to keep the ranch and to build on it to the point where it is, with all the environmental pressure.”
Some of the Reader family’s traditional range management practices, such as prescribed burning, went out of favor in the early years of the environmental movement, Reader said.
“Now the thinking is starting to go the other way. People see that we have created a fire buffer for the rest of Nevada County,” he said.
The brothers follow burning with heavy seeding to improve the pastureland and reduce invasive non-natives such as star-thistle and Scotch broom, Reader said.
They have developed springs on the property by digging out and laying rock where the water boils up, diverting the water into a tank at each spring and laying pipes to different parts of the ranch to get water to the cattle. The cows don’t trample the springs and fill them with sediment, and the cattlemen can move the animals around with plentiful water sources, getting more efficient use of the pasture.
The brothers also are planting the range with native oak, pine and other tree species to shade the cattle and further reduce sun-loving non-natives. The multistoried habitat supports an abundance of wildlife.
Other Nevada County residents recognized by the conservation district for their work to wisely use natural resources are:
• Phil Personeni of Grass Valley, who won the Forest Stewardship Award for replanting 60 acres after his ranch burned in the 1989 49er fire.
• Karen Henderson of Grass Valley, who received the Educator of the Year Award for supporting conservation and agriculture education at Nevada Union High School.
• Bill Tanner of the Rondoni Ranch in Grass Valley, who was the recipient of the Conservation Innovation Award for his project to increase cattle grazing distribution through a timed, water bucket device that opens the gate and allows cattle to move from pasture to pasture.
• Dave Barhydt of Grass Valley, the winner of the Contractor of the Year Award for installing several irrigation conversions that save water and labor while preventing soil erosion.
• David Gallino of Grass Valley, who won the Director of the Year Award for his commitment to education and preserving natural resources during his 10 years as Resource Conservation District director.
To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail trinak@the
union.com or call 477-4230.
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