Goats Reduce Risk of Fire in California
With a diet of shrubs, branches, and grass, goats have become a creative tool at the Sacramento River and Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuges to reduce overgrown vegetation in wildland urban interface areas. In their recent assignment to the refuges, the goats cleared several hundred acres that would have had to have been thinned manually by handcrews. The refuges, located in northern California, first introduced goats last year to areas at risk of wildfire.
Along with manual thinning and prescribed fire, goat grazing is part of a combination of methods refuge managers rely on to manage hazardous fuels and maintain habitat. Both refuges provide critical winter habitat for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway.
This year, the goats will rotate to other portions of the refuges throughout the summer to provide a natural way to eliminate unnatural accumulations of vegetation. Handcrews follow-up using chainsaws and chippers to cut and eliminate the high branches growing outside the reach of the animals.
The use of goats also reduces concerns with smoke along California’s busy highways associated with the alternate tool of prescribed burning. Refuge managers have developed a monitoring program to determine the long-term effectiveness of using goat grazing versus other management techniques.
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