Understandably, California is very worried about wildfires. Last year, the state suffered its most deadly blaze on record. For Nevada City, a town of 3,100 people right at the edge of the Tahoe National Forest, the concern is especially heightened.
“There is little need to stress how important it is to the safety and well-being of Nevada City citizens and neighboring residents that we reduce the fire load in our surrounding forests and neighborhoods,” the city’s vice mayor, Reinette Senum, wrote in a GoFundMe that’s now trending quickly toward its goal of $30,000.
The fundraiser aims to pool the resources of Nevada City residents to help clear the surrounding forests of brush and reduce the risk of wildfire. And Nevada City wants to do this in both a proven and very cute way: by setting goats loose on the underbrush. Sheep like to eat grass, and goats chomp on low-lying trees and bushes that are a particular cause for concern in high wildfire-risk areas.
According to the GoFundMe (obviously, called Goat Fund Me Nevada City), Nevada City officials have already begun to work with local ranchers on the launch of a prescriptive grazing program. The city owns around 450 acres of forest, and a herd of around 200 ruminants can munch through around an acre of underbrush a day.
Nevada City is trying to move fast to raise enough funds to deploy goats across its whole greenbelt. A herd can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per acre, so the city’s target goal of $30,000 would just about cover it. Even though Nevada City launched the fundraiser in late 2018, it’s gaining steam after an additional push in January because, as Senum writes on GoFundMe, “Time is of the essence.” The local ranchers have already rented out their herds for the spring, summer, and fall. If Nevada City wants its brush cleared in time for fire season later this year, it needs to move fast to rent the herds now.
Ideally, Senum writes in in the GoFundMe, the city would go after grant funding to finance the herds, but that takes a while to secure. Nevada City hopes to welcome the goats as quickly as possible to have as much cleared before the spring.
As evidenced by the fact that the local herds are already booked up for the rest of the year, prescriptive grazing is an idea that’s growing in popularity. Several other towns in California and across the West have used goat herds to tame flammable vegetation for years, and even Prospect Park in Brooklyn has deployed goats to clear invasive species and make way for native plants.
Judging by the comments in the Goat Fund Me–and how quickly donations are pouring in–people are into the idea. One commenter, Dale Albin, wrote: “I lost my house in Santa Rosa in 2017. I recently donated to the Paradise fire victims. I like the idea of funding goats rather than victims. Go goats!”