Reinette Senum: Nevada City launches goat brigade, fire reduction campaign |

Reinette Senum: Nevada City launches goat brigade, fire reduction campaign

Reinette Senum
Other Voices

There is little need to stress how important it is to the safety and wellbeing of Nevada City citizens and neighboring residents that we reduce the heavy fuel loads in our surrounding forests and neighborhoods.

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 business owner, we are all in the same boat together, equally at risk for catastrophic fire.

Our Nevada City city staff, fire and police departments, as well as City Council members, realize how important it is that we take proactive steps regarding our city-owned greenbelts. This is why we have been working for months with local ranchers preparing to hire herds of goats/sheep for what is known as “prescriptive grazing.”

In addition to these greenbelts, the city is initially focusing on the backside of Pioneer Park so as to utilize it as a Prescriptive Grazing Public Demonstration on Jan. 4 (weather dependent).

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We know it’s equally important that we encourage and teach our local residents how to reduce the risk on their own property. Just last week our Nevada City City Council unanimously approved $5,000 toward the Prescriptive Grazing and Public Demonstration so as to jump start the project by providing a public demonstration, as well as tips, tools, best practices and contact information of additional qualified ranchers. We will provide this information in flier form as well as on our official city website so you can utilize the same prescriptive grazing techniques on your own property and surrounding neighborhood as we will on our city-owned land.

Prescriptive grazing 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 has over 450 acres of greenbelt. That’s a lot of acreage, but we’re breaking it down into bite sizes and prioritizing where the risk is greatest.

However, we can’t do this completely alone and this is why:

Yes, we can use prescriptive grazing as a solution to reduce our risk of catastrophic fire, but the rub is we only have this winter available to use several different large herds. And while our local ranchers are expanding to meet demand they have already rented out their herds next spring, summer and fall.

To move on this quickly, the City has launched a GoFundMe campaign called “Goat Fund Me Nevada City” and we are asking residents, business owners, neighborhood associations, etc., to please pitch in now as we spend the next few months seeking grant funding. Help us fill the gap and take advantage of the cool season while we can. The more money we raise, the more acreage we can cover!

This is a long-term vision and is simply the first phase: The goats must be followed by hand-crews carefully removing what remains. However, the removal of greenery will allow us to see what is hidden and it is our hope to then follow up with the removal of abandoned homeless camps.

This is a very big order and the city cannot do this alone either. We have to be creative and we have to call upon our neighbors to accomplish this. Each and every one of us must do something in the direction of risk reduction throughout our forests, homes and cities.

As a community, if we were really smart we could turn this particular crisis around and simultaneously reduce the number of those living on our streets and in our woods by designating an official campground for the homeless in exchange for working on crews to restore our ailing forests.

If there is one thing homeless advocates have learned it is that a person needs a purpose to rise out of their homelessness. What better purpose than to work for the betterment of a grateful community?

The benefits are many. We could actually reduce our fire risk and reinforce our local economy through forest restoration while providing shelter, food, wrap-around services and communion for those in need.

But that too is a big order and will take much money, energy and organization.

So for now, we start with the goats because we have to start somewhere. Please contribute what you can and please share widely!

It really is up to us.

Reinette Senum is vice mayor of Nevada City and the GoatFundMe campaign manager. Visit to learn more.

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