About 250 goats are munching on weeds in west Reno in an effort to reduce fire danger near homes. The City of Reno, NV Energy and the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) are partnering on the effort to use the ungulates to reduce flammable fuels that spur dangerous wildfires.
“This is just the beginning of Reno’s larger plan to rid the Rosewood Canyon of dangerous overgrown and dead vegetation and provide defensible space between green natural native vegetation and structures,” said Reno Fire Marshal Tray Palmer.
High Desert Graziers of Smith Valley is managing the animals on 30 acres of city-owned property near Cashill Boulevard and Patidar Drive. The goats are guarded by specially trained guard dogs, so people and pets should not enter the area.
“By the end of the year we hope to bring in other hand crews and equipment to finish the mitigation treatment in the north and south canyons as well,” Palmer added.
Cheatgrass is a primary target for goat-grazing effort. A fine fuel, the invasive weed is incredibly flammable.
“A typical cheatgrass fire on flat terrain with wind speeds of 20 miles per hour may generate flame lengths up to eight feet in height; the fire can travel more than four miles per hour,” according to the U.S. Forest Service. “Grass fires are dangerous because they move quickly and grasses act as ladder fuels igniting larger and more volatile vegetation.”
Sparks from target shooting, motor vehicles and illegal fires are consistently responsible for massive wildfires in the Great Basin.
Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus on Thursday said the goat grazing effort is critical to reduce wildfire impacts. She said property owners should also remove fine fuels near structures.
The Spanish Goats are between the ages of one and three. This type of goat is bred to consume all types of vegetation in open and varied terrain, city officials said. Washoe County has used goats for similar efforts, and in Carson City, sheep graze on flammable vegetation each year.
“Every year, the Nevada Division of Forestry looks forward to working with our partners to implement the livestock grazing program to help create fire-resilient communities and landscapes for Nevada,” said Kacey KC, NDF state forester and firewarden. “Bringing in goats and sheep to graze on dry vegetation throughout Nevada is an environmentally friendly and effective way to successfully reduce the risk of wildfires…”
Fire agencies forecast dangerous wildfire conditions, work to reduce fuels
“We need to do more to prevent fires, to take precautions, to listen to the recommendations that come forward from the various agencies.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.