The Pajaro River watershed is home to many small livestock and equestrian facilities, which are an important part of the region’s agricultural heritage and recreational offerings. Improperly managed livestock and equestrian facilities have the potential to cause significant damage to local waterways. Run-off from these facilities including nutrients, sediment, and pathogens, can greatly affect water quality; and grazing practices can also negatively impact upland areas and riparian habitat. The Livestock and Land Program was created in 2011 to address these issues and improve surface and ground water through implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) on equestrian and livestock facilities. The program focuses on public outreach and technical training and support for local partners to demonstrate BMPs on the ground. The voluntary program was designed to reach a broader audience and find a common ground for conservation considerations and facilities improvement, which would also benefit livestock health.
In San Juan Bautista a 1,000-acre horse, goat, and cattle facility enrolled as a Livestock and Land demonstration site. Challenges on the property included a lack of drainage on their barn structures and in their yard, causing water to flow through heavy-use areas and washing sediment and manure into the adjacent creek on their property (a tributary to the San Benito River). Through the Livestock and Land Program, the family installed roof gutters connected to subsurface drainage systems in order to divert runoff to two leach fields created to dissipate captured water. The existing paddocks and yard areas were regraded and covered with gravel in order to divert surface flows away from buildings. The runoff was directed through an area seeded with drought tolerant grasses that filter the water before it enters the creek. This grassy area has been fenced off to prevent over-grazing by cattle in the riparian area, thereby improving habitat and water quality.
In addition to successfully implementing these BMPs as a result of their involvement in the program, the family is also championing these concepts to their peers, posting a “Watershed Steward Demonstration Site” sign outside their property and offer public tours of the operation. By making these practical updates to their facility, the family is able to maintain and improve their livestock operations while also stewarding the Pajaro River watershed.