Story at a glance
- Wildfires in Oregon have burned almost a million acres since the beginning of the year.
- Excess vegetation and dry undergrowth can provide fuel for fires.
- One shepherd is putting his goats to work clearing the land.
Firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon are getting a little assistance from an unexpected species: goats.
Forest Grove, a town to the west of Portland, has mobilized a herd of 230 goats to graze on dry undergrowth and excess vegetation that could potentially catch and spread fire.
“People say: ‘Oh, what do you do?’" Craig Madsen told Oregon Public Broadcasting, which first reported the story. ‘"I’m a shepherd.’ You get this second look.”
Domesticated goats, which are descended from wild goats in Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, are not picky eaters, but actually prefer weeds to grass — ideal for most American gardeners. The state's capital, Salem, permits the use of goats for clearing vegetation from land without a permit, as long you follow the rules and noise regulations.
Madsen, their caretaker, worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service for 14 years before starting Healing Hooves, a natural vegetation management company that herds goats through cities and private landowners.
For $800 a day, plus a trucking fee, he will bring his goats through your property to graze, corralling them with an electric fence as they clear out about an acre in about a day and a half. He lives in the back of his truck from May to October, taking his herd from town to town. Next stop: Spokane, Wash.
“I’ll be doing some work in the city of Spokane, and the primary purpose is to reduce fuel loads. And second is to try and manage noxious weeds,” Madsen told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
More than 7,500 personnel are fighting 10 large wildfires in Oregon, down from 17 earlier this year, which have already burned about 1 million acres since the beginning of the year.
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