Goats help clear woods of brush | TheUnion.com

Goats help clear woods of brush

John HartGoats graze on brush at Empire Mine State Historic Park Thursday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Got goats?

For seven days, Empire Mine State Historic Park does.

A herd of more than 500 goats was trucked into the park Wednesday. They’re behind temporary electric fences in the Osborne Hill area, watched over by an Anatolian dog and a goat herder who’s camped out in a travel trailer.

The goats are being tested as a tool in the park’s endless battle against brush that threatens to choke off the woods, increasing fire danger.

To restore wooded acreage to its wide-open natural state, the park has hired crews of chain saw-wielding Civilian Conservation Corps workers from the California Youth Authority camp on Washington Ridge. Park officials would love to use prescribed burning, but haven’t yet had the opportunity.

So they’re giving goats a go.

“To me, this kind of work is like fire insurance,” said Park Superintendent Ray Patton. “The big issue to me is getting (the park) back to some kind of baseline natural level.”

The goats can clear about an acre a day, said their owner, Terry Adams Jr., a Corning-area herder. He trucks his brush-clearing charges to sites all around Northern California.

Goats will eat any and every kind of brush up to a pinkie finger in width.

The park is spending about $8,000 on the pilot project. The Nevada County Resource Conservation District chipped in $3,000 received from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Ken Roberts, a board member of the Resource Conservation District, is keen on using goats to clear brush because he said it replicates the activity of deer, antelope and elk that historically browsed Sierra Nevada forests.

“The RCD really wanted to see how reintroducing grazing animals … can play a role in managing these ecosystems much closer to natural means,” Roberts said during a site tour Thursday.

Patton hopes to try prescribed fire someday.

“Fire is the best way to do the job because that replicates natural conditions,” he said. “Once we started excluding fire, we really screwed things up.”

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