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Using Goats to Prevent Wildfires is more sustainable and less risky than herbicides or fuel-powered mowers. (Photo: Courtesy Author)
Using Goats to Prevent Wildfires is more sustainable and less risky than herbicides or fuel-powered mowers. (Photo: Courtesy Author)

Caltrans Hires Herbivorous Herd to Devour Shrubs and Weeds Along Highway 101, Creating a Firebreak

Jul 24, 2020

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By Vince Jacala

The Sonoma County Project on U.S. Highway 101  Extends from Healdsburg to Geyserville, and began Wednesday, July 22. Caltrans has hired a herder and 400 goats as part of an eco-friendly mission to remove brush along a two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 101 in Sonoma County between Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg and Canyon Road in Geyserville.

Caltrans has worked closely with State Senator Mike McGuire’s Office, CAL FIRE (Sonoma, Lake, Napa Unit) and the North Sonoma County Fire Protection District (NSCFPD) to coordinate implementation of the goats along Highway 101.

The goats arrived on Wednesday, July 22. Caltrans hired the herbivorous herd to devour shrubs and weeds along highway 101, creating a firebreak before the summer heat renders vegetation dry and flammable. The goats can consume between an acre to an acre-and-a half of dry vegetation per day and will remain on location until they have cleared the roadside brush—estimated in 12-16 days.

Caltrans has used goats at other locations but never on this scale.

In May 2020, Caltrans brought goats to the Bay Bridge approach in San Francisco to eat the hard-to-reach brush on the steep slope

“Caltrans Bay Area utilizes an integrated vegetation management plan,” said Caltrans Bay Area Director Tony Tavares, “which includes diverse methods of controlling roadside weeds, grass, and shrubs. Grazing goats can’t be used in every situation, but when appropriate, it’s an excellent method of controlling brush without using herbicides.”   

"Sonoma County has gone through hell and back with these wildland fires, and now, emergency preparedness and prevention has become a part of our daily lives,” said Senator Mike McGuire.

Goats would rather eat brush than grass, and they can climb up or down areas hard to reach by foot or even helicopter. (ShutterStock)

“Working hand in hand with Caltrans and the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District, we couldn’t be more excited to advance this vegetation management and fire break project along the 101 corridor.  It may sound funny, but goats are some of the most effective partners we have at reducing fire load. We’re grateful to Chief Turbeville and Caltrans for working with us and look forward to deploying over 400 hungry goats soon.”

Unlike cattle, which graze close to the ground, goats nibble brush almost down to the ground, creating excellent firebreaks.

"During the Tubbs and Kincade fires, we saw that grazed land provided strong and effective fuel breaks that protected homes and forest," Fourth District Supervisor James Gore said. "This is exactly the kind of project we need in Sonoma County."

Temporary fencing will be installed to secure the large herd. A goat herder and guard dog will be onsite to control and protect the goats.  

No lane or highway closures are scheduled due to the operation.

However, motorists should always drive with caution through any work or maintenance zone.

For 24/7 traffic updates, go to 511.org: https://twitter.com/511SFBay  You can also get real-time information on all State Highways in California on our Caltrans Quick Map:http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov   Please be#WorkZoneAlert

Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CaltransD4 

READ more:

Goats in high demand to reduce US wildfire risk:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/12/goats-are-the-best-tool-grazers-in-high-demand-to-reduce-us-wildfire-risk#

Using Goats to Prevent Wildfires:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/using-goats-to-prevent-wildfires-51327045 

 

 

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