The goats from High Desert Graziers working at Sierra Canyon at Somersett Vil- lage, Reno, Nevada.

Grazing goats help prevent wildfires around Lake Tahoe

By Fernando Martinez, SFGATE

Firefighters aren’t the only ones working hard to fight and pre- vent more damage from the West’s unprecedented wildfire season. They have another ally: goats, who are particularly effective at get- ting rid of a certain type of flammable grass.

High Desert Graziers, a grazing service that utilizes goats, has been busy helping prevent wildfires by letting their hundreds of goats eat the dry and flammable vegetation just east of Lake Tahoe in Ne- vada, as first reported by the Tahoe Daily Tribune. “The rule of thumb is whatever cattle and sheep and horses eat, goats will eat additional to that,” Denton Cook, co-owner of High Desert Graziers, told SFGATE. “A goat will eat everything that those animals won’t eat. They eat brush, weeds and cheatgrass. They con- sume all day long.”

The endless appetite of goats is critical for fire prevention. Cheatgrass, in particular, is an invasive species that crowds out native grasses and creates wildfire hazards, according to the National Inva- sive Species Information Center. High Desert Graziers’ current project is helping to clear out 100 acres in Carson City, Nevada, about 3 miles into Clear Creek water- shed, a 13.5-mile-long stream west of the city. Denton says each of their projects is different and that this par- ticular project didn’t have any kind of grazing for more than 50 years. It was so overgrown, it would be hard for someone to tell if last year was a heavy moisture year or a dry year. In less overgrown areas, it’d be easier to tell.

High Desert Graziers is working with the Nevada Division of

Forestry and NV Energy, a Nevada-based electric company, to co- ordinate their targeted goat grazing. However, this Nevada project is as close as the goats will get to Lake Tahoe. “Livestock grazing got taken off of a lot of areas around Lake

Tahoe and people are just now figuring out that they better bring some fire mitigation grazing type of work back,” Denton explained. n

November 2020 | Goat Rancher 9

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