Goats helping reduce wildfire risk in Clear Creek
Goats from High Desert Graziers in Smith Valley are munching away on everything from sage and manzanita to cheat grass and even low-hanging pine branches in the Clear Creek watershed, reducing the risk of wildfire in that rugged terrain.
The goats were brought in through a partnership between NV Energy and the Nevada Division of Forestry to remove flammable vegetation.
Mark Regan of NV Energy said using grazing animals such as goats and sheep not only reduces the risk of fire but is much more sustainable than using heavy equipment to remove vegetation.
The goats graze on native grasses and shrubs and, although their favorite is bitter brush, they are much less picky than cattle or even sheep.
“Goats will eat anything,” he said.
Denton Cook, who along with his wife Shari owns the 350 goats prowling the hills just three miles up U.S. 50 toward Spooner Summit, are Spanish goats bred to consume all types of vegetation. She said the goats will clean the entire area of unwanted vegetation before moving on.
Regan said the NV Energy has been using animals to help clear vegetation away from power poles and beneath power lines for 25 years. He said they will clear vegetation in rugged terrain more efficiently and cheaper than bringing in fire crews to do the job. It can cost anywhere from $800-$1,500 a day for the goats to do the job.
The project was made possible by funding included in Senate Bill 508 of the 2019 session. The utility, he said, splits the cost with the state 50-50.
The goats will be on the job for another 60-80 days, Regan said, depending on the weather.