The Park City Council Considers Using Animals To Reach Their Netzero Goals

Jul 20, 2018

The Park City Council has some big goals to eliminate the city’s carbon footprint. Staff’s latest find includes putting cows and horses out to pasture. Melissa Allison has more:

Two years ago the Park City Council signed a proclamation to have a zero carbon impact by 2022 for city operations. City leaders instructed staff to look for new ways to go green. Since then, the city has increased its use of solar, collaborating with Rocky Mountain Power to build a solar farm. The city also added electric buses to its fleet.

At Thursday’s meeting Environmental Sustainability Manager Luke Cartin told council about a new idea – using animals to graze the city’s open space.

By using cows, horses and other animals to graze on the city’s open space, they’re allowing nature to step back in and as the animals churn the ground with their hooves, the natural order of things will return.

Cartin made it clear this is only beneficial when the cows and other animals are fed a natural diet of grass, not corn and oats.

Cartin called these practices, "carbon sequestration" and said it has many benefits in addition to reducing the carbon footprint.

“This is improving soil health and water quality and carbon sequestration and agricultural practices are part of it," Cartin said. "It’s getting that kind of cycle back, back spinning level and evenly.”

Council Member Lynn Ware Peek went on a walk with Cartin to look at the condition of the McPolin Barn’s soils which Cartin says could be improved on using the methods mentioned.

Peek said, during their walk she got to see what carbon farming looks like first hand.

“We walked up to the Frank Richards parcel which is just uphill and south of the area and Bill White farms has been working his area there with the same concept and it’s so interesting," Peek said. "The vegetation is so much thicker there and it’s what happens when you get the continual disturbance and grazing when it’s done in the right way.”

Cartin told KPCW there are other groups who want to work with Park City.

“It’s not just us coming up with this cockamamie idea," Cartin said. "There are some really powerful resources out there with universities, with national laboratories with other huge foundations that are working in this sphere. They’ve reached out already saying they want to partner with us. They want to understand, they want to understand how we can help each other – how we can all figure this out together so its unique for a ski town – a resort town type piece but the great thing is there is a lot of academic rigor to it as well.”

Cartin said they also want to include an educational piece to the program that would enable the community to learn more about Park City, its history and why they’re doing what they’re doing. But before anything can happen – Cartin said they need to better understand the land.

Council liked what they heard and told Cartin to start working on it.

I’m Melissa Allison, KCPW News.