Sustainable Wildfire Prevention Technique Deployed in Reno
Goats from High Desert Graziers, a Nevada-based service located in Smith Valley, will be grazing on approximately 30 acres of city-owned property between Cashill Blvd, Patidar Drive, Solari Drive, and Olympic Circle. This project is funded through Senate Bill 508, which allocates funding to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for wildfire prevention, restoration, and long-term planning, and the 2019 Fire Assistance Wildland Urban Interface Grant.
Domestic and wild herbivores, like goats and deer, are powerful forces that can transform ecosystems through grazing, for better or worse. Targeted grazing harnesses animals’ normal feeding behavior as a tool to mitigate wildfire risk, by removing flammable vegetation, thus reducing the level of fuels available to burn during a wildfire. In addition, targeted grazing is more sustainable than alternatives like the use of heavy equipment to remove native grasses and shrubs like sagebrush, bitterbrush, manzanita, as well as non-native grasses and weeds like cheatgrass.
“Targeted grazing is an ecologically beneficial treatment on the landscape to reduce the impacts of wildfires and prevent the loss of homes and other critical infrastructure,” said Anna Higgins, a forester with the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team at NDF.
NDF partners agree that targeted grazing is an effective strategy. Reno Fire Marshall Tray Palmer describes the project as a “continuation of fuel mitigation of the Rosewood Canyons”, as well as a “template to reduce hazardous fuel loads in other parts of the city”. In addition, Mark Regan, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist for NV Energy, indicates that using goats is part of the agency’s “overall Natural Disaster Protection Plan,” as an ecologically sound and sustainable option for maintaining utility corridors in “rugged terrain that would be challenging for crews to navigate.”
The goats used in this project are Spanish goats from the Kensing lineage. They are between the ages of one and three years old. This type of goat is bread to consume all types of vegetation in open and varied terrain. Targeted grazing has no known negative impact on the goats.
Members of the public are welcome to visit the area and monitor the progress of the grazing. However, Reno city officials warn the public that there will be electric fencing and guard dogs surrounding the goats, to contain them within the project site and protect them from predators. In addition, visitors are asked to keep their dogs on leash, maintain distance from the animals, and avoid making loud noises that can frighten and disturb them.