Goats Rather than Tractors
In just a few days, a few hundred goats cleared several acres of thick brush and grass at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in California. Refuge managers typically remove brush and small limbs using manpower and heavy equipment. Goats, however, are less expensive; they don’t burn fossil fuels and reduce the carbon footprint.
The Rio Vista Unit of Sacramento River Refuge is bordered by private homes and local parks. Refuge land and fire managers examined several options to reduce the buildup of vegetation and thereby reduce the risk of wildfire. Everyone agreed it was worth giving the goats a try. Refuge manager Kelly Moroney said neighboring landowners and local government officials were pleased with the results.
Goats first grazed on the refuge in June 2007, clearing about 35 acres. This year, the goats will browse through 50-60 acres. They will be followed by student work crews who will cut the higher limbs. “Ultimately,” says Moroney, “we want a closed canopy on top that shades out low, understory growth. This will make a natural fire break, requiring less maintenance over time.” Moroney also says goats are now being considered for other refuges and additional acreage at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex and throughout the region.