The New York Times calls them an “unconventional weapon against future wildfires.” Some are known as “Fire Grazers.”
To most of us, though, they’re just goats. But they provide a valuable service: eating the “type of vegetation (that) is known as the fire fuel ladder and (which) leads to wider spread when wildfires spark,” says the Times.
Using goats to clear land at risk of burning is not as new as it might seem. The Fire Grazers of Mariposa County have been at it for more than a decade, employed every year by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
“They are extremely agile and can easily climb slopes that humans cannot navigate let alone perform this type of work to the level required for fire clearance or the removal of invasive plants,” says the Palos Verdes Pulse. “Generally, the goats eat all types of vegetation and a herd of 400 goats can normally clear up to an acre a day, depending on the year’s rainfall and weed levels.”
Yorba Linda has also taken a “bite out of fire dangers with goats,” while Anaheim, Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Niguel “have used goat grazing for many years as a means for weed abatement, and it has proven effective,” says Yorba Linda Public Works Director Jamie Lai.
A Colorado woman, Lani Malmberg, a “trailblazer” in the “industry of prescribed grazing,” has a co-founded a nonprofit named the Goatapelli Foundation, which trains “people in how to use goats to prevent wildfires,” says the Times. In 2020, the federal Bureau of Land Management, for the first time, contracted with “Malmberg and her goats for fire mitigation in Carbondale, Colo.”
Using goats for wildfire mitigation should have a strong appeal because it’s nature at work. It should suit even the most radical environmentalist. Not even animal-rights activists can object – the goats are just doing what goats want to do. They’re even being chauffeured to their eating fields.
California spent $3 billion on wildfires last year, most of it used to put them out rather than prevent them, and plans to lay out billions more in the coming years. Spending a portion of it to hire goats to do jobs that humans can’t do wouldn’t be the worst idea to come out of Sacramento.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.