Goat grazing

SPOKANE, Wash. - The City of Spokane has a garbage-eating goat, but how about some firefighting goats?

According to our partners at the Spokesman-Review, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer and Councilwoman Lori Kinnear are proposing that the city of Spokane pilot a program that would bring goats into the city's overgrown areas to graze, aimed at reducing wildfire risks.

The proposal was recently reviewed by Spokane's Public Safety and Community Health Committee, and Kinnear plans to bring forward a formal request along with funding resources to the council in the next month or two ahead of the fire season.

“We thought it would be a pretty good opportunity to use, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but goats to reduce fuel,” Schaeffer told the S-R. “I know more now about goats and fuel reduction than I ever could have imagined.”

The practice can be described as “prescribed herbivory,” “targeted grazing” and “targeted browsing," but the end result is the same: using grazing animals to thin out vegetation on city land rather than using controlled burns or human labor.

The program would involve public officials contracting with private owners in different areas, piloting the goat approach at locations in each of the three City Council districts. Specific locations have yet to be determined, but Schaeffer says there is a lot of challenging areas.

Benefits to using goats over mechanical options or controlled burns include noise, air quality and financial impacts. Goats can also handle steep slopes while causing less soil disturbance.

Schaeffer's proposal included goats' brush-grazing capabilities, the amount needed to tackle a single ton of brush per day, and an estimate of $300-1,000 paid by the city per acre of brush.

“We’re a candidate. We have to take it seriously,” Kinnear said. “To get rid of the brush and fuel is cost-prohibitive if we use people, and it’s also dangerous.”

Goats have been utilized in the past at increasing wildfire prevention around California.