Hooved Fire Prevention

Image: Renee Lewis

Goats have appeared on these pages in various guises, including being part of urban park maintenance. Thanks to environmental reporter Renee Lewis and the Earther.com for sharing this good news fire prevention story.

Firefighting Goats Devour Fuel Across the West Before it can Burn

Roslyn, WA—After one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory in the Pacific Northwest this summer—with the unforgettable smoke-pocalypse that socked in the region with thick smoke for weeks—a new tool is being added fight against wildfires: goats.

“More and more, people are looking at goats as a tool for fire suppression,” said Craig Madsen of Healing Hooves, a company based in Edwall, Washington, that maintains a herd of about 250 goats that are used for natural vegetation management.

The goats bleated loudly and walked towards Madsen as we approached the plot of land where the herd was busy grazing.

“The goats are complaining because of the rain,” Madsen said, as a cool, fall shower began.

Madsen stood under the overhang of the trailer he uses to to transport the herd, across the road from the land where the goats were grazing. The guard dog, Gigi, sat under a tree keeping watch as the goats—bucks, does, and kids—worked together to devour everything within reach.

Every car that drove by stopped to look at the unusual sight, and many asked Madsen about what he was doing out there with all those goats.

Healing Hooves was hired by Suncadia, a sprawling resort in a wooded area near Cle Elum, WA, for fire management. By munching on everything they can, the goats reduce the amount of fuel available to wildfires.
“Goats mimic a cool, late-season understory burn,” Madsen said. “They eat all the leaves from shrubs and seedlings, reducing the amount of regeneration so it’s not so dense in the future.”

 

A thick understory—or vegetation that grows between the forest canopy and forest floor—adds fuel to fires like the Jolly Mountain fire that occurred adjacent to Suncadia over the summer. It was one of dozens of wildfires that torched the Pacific Northwest this season…

…The goats had just started on the new plot at Suncadia, and it stood in stark contrast to the plot the goats had finished the day before. That plot looked like someone had gone in with a lawn mower—all the brush was gone. And every shrub and sapling had been stripped of every leaf.

“This is long-term fire suppression,” Madsen said. It’s not a one-time job either, he added. “You need to get the goats in there multiple times so that the understory doesn’t have a chance to recover.”…

…“Goats for fire remediation are absolutely a no brainer,” Dunakin said, adding that they not only eat the vegetation but in some cases sterilize the seeds in the digestive process—ensuring the plants will come up less and less.

 Also, the goats eat the vegetation so it doesn’t have to be hauled off or just left there, remaining a fire hazard.
“That’s kind of what I call the superpower of goats, they can eat an enormous amount of biomass—it’s amazing how much they consume,” Dunakin said.

Read the entire post here.

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