NEVADA CITY, Calif. December 7, 2018 – The City of Nevada City is taking additional initiative to create more defensible space in and around Nevada City by deploying teams of goats and sheep in response to the growing risk of fire. The unprecedented fires in California, particularly in Paradise, have hit all too close to home and have become the ultimate Cautionary Tale.
Whether you are a homeowner, a renter, or a building/business owner, it’s clear that everyone is in the same boat together, equally at risk for catastrophic fire.
The immediate challenge for the City is that while ranchers are expanding to meet demand, for now, their herds are already rented out next spring, summer, and fall, making their herds only available to the City this winter.
Assigned as the lead on this city project, Nevada City Vice Mayor Reinette Senum got a jumpstart by launching a GoFundMe campaign, titled Goat Fund Me, an hour before last Wednesday’s Wildfire Prevention & Preparedness Town Hall at the Rood Building. The City is starting with a goal of $30,000 though it will ultimately cost much more than that. Over $1,200 has been donated in the first 24 hours.
The Goat Fund Me campaign can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/GoatFundMeNevadaCity
“For the immediate moment we turn to our homeowners, renters, business owners, and neighborhood associations while we work at securing grant funding for the long haul. However,” Senum added, “this generally takes many weeks or months and we simply don’t have that kind of time if we’re going to launch the program by this month and throughout the rest of the winter.”
For good measure the city staff is recommending the City Council approve (up to) $5,000 to start the prescriptive grazing behind Pioneer Park. The intention is to utilize this particular site as a Public Demonstration that will include outreach materials for the public including tips, tools, best practices, and contact info of qualified, vetted ranchers.
City Manager, Catrina Olson, stated “While the City does everything in our power to reduce the fire risk we think it equally important that we teach our local residents how to do the same and it’s our goal make it as easy as possible for them to do so.”
The City will provide this information in brochure-form as well as on their official City website so you can utilize the same prescriptive grazing techniques on your property and surrounding neighborhood as the City will on their city-owned land. The City will also continue to identify other ranchers that may have smaller herds available for rent all year long. There is also talk of a herd-share program starting up for neighbors in response to the fires and our unhealthy forests.
Vice Mayor Senum, city staff, and local ranchers have walked city owned property and have identified 4 different methods of clearing as well as the following properties as high priority for this winter: behind Pioneer Park, Deer Creek environs including water treatment plant, Woods Ravine between Hwy 49 and Cement Hill Road, Sugar Loaf, and the old airport.
This type of grazing includes a herdsman to be on-site at all times as well as a camping trailer, water wagon (if needed), electric fencing, herding dog, transport trailer, and can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per acre depending on the difficulty of the terrain and how much there is to graze. Approximately 200 goats can knock down an acre per day. Nevada City owns over 450 acres of greenbelt.
“That’s a lot of acreage,” Senum stated, “but we’re breaking it down into bite sizes and prioritizing where the risk is greatest. However, the more money we raise, the more acreage we can cover!”
Once these properties have been cleared the City intends on following up with hand-crews. They will be calling upon community volunteers for the easy-to-reach properties and as well as hoping to partner with the County to utilize the Jail Release Program and/or the Washington Ridge Crews.
With the explosion of homeless camps in the area, adding to the mixture of risk, the City will maximize the benefits of clearing out these properties by also following up with removing abandoned homeless camp so as to discourage homeless camps in the future thus reducing the fire risk even more while ensuring a healthy watershed!
IT’S UP TO US
The City asks for support in keeping Nevada City and surrounding communities safe particularly until the program gets off the ground and more funding is secured over the next few months.
Senum emphasized, “There is no better insurance policy than to reduce the risk at hand. We ask our citizens to be proactive and ensure that we are safe and thriving in a healthy, fire-free community!”
For more information, contact Reinette Senum at email@example.com
Goats for clearing the forest sounds good on the surface, but I have concerns and questions. Goats are generalist browsers and if left on a site for very long, they eat pretty much all the vegetation from what I have seen. The do not discriminate between desirable native vegetation and flammable or undesirable exotic, invasive species. Will the goats eat the flammable and invasive Scotch Broom, for instance, or leave it for more palatable native plants such as Coffeeberry, Toyon, Salmonberry, and all the other CA native understory plants that are important to wildlife and a diverse ecosystem? We need a balanced and strategic approach to vegetation management, IMO. The goal is to remove the crowded and flammable understory of conifer seedlings we see everywhere, thin out Manzanita and other Chaparral species while leaving some healthy specimens for wildlife benefits and erosion control, remove fire ladder fuels under oaks and other valuable trees, and remove all non-native invasive species such as flammable Scotch, French and Spanish Broom and Himalayan Blackberry. Goats offer one option, but if you want to preserve valuable native vegetation, they need to be confined with electric fencing to only those areas where their services are wanted and kept away from desirable native plants, especially any species that are rare or endangered. A fire safe woodland is vital to our region, but we need to evaluate our approaches carefully to attain this goal without harming our ecosystems and biodiveristy.
Ms. Gilbert, Thank for your articulate and well considered response to this article. I am interested in your background as you seem well-educated in biological science. You bring up valid concerns and illustrate the complexities of forest grooming and our current dilemma of expanding human population and its increasing encroachment into virgin lands resulting in a build up pf fuels. This is a complicated problem and it will take a measured and educated response.
Our concern, in our Nevada City neighborhood, is the size, age, condition and placement of many old trees. Do you have an opinion about the trees? I do, but I would like to hear yours.
These are important concerns, thanks to both of you for your care. Nancy, as you noted, its when goats are left for too long in an area that they go from being helpful to being damaging. Fortunately, with contracted grazing services, there is economic incentive to move the goats/ruminants at a rapid pace. As well, since the property isn’t owned by the grazing company, its also necessary to confine the goats within electric fenceline, so decisions can be made about which areas to allow animals into. When ruminants are moved quickly, once per day, they shouldn’t do more damage to native plants than the herds of deer, elk, mastodons, etc would have done, and these plants co-evolved to such periodic intensive grazing. If we use goats or other ruminants to accomplish the goal of fuel load reduction, particularly reducing fuel ladders, we may prune back the native shrubs, grasses, and trees temporarily, as well as the invasives, however I would emphasize that its better to graze back the plants overall in order to save the trees and other native plants from catastrophic fire.
Comments are closed.