Goats eat up fire risk

Goats eat up fire risk

14 August 2008

published by www.redbluffdailynews.com

USA — Bill Burrows dream is to see elephants and giraffes roaming 40,000 acres west of Red Bluff as part of the Sunflower Coordinated Resource Management Plan.

The safari animals represent the concept Burrows and other CRMP partners have been working on for more than 25 years, he said. While elephants and giraffes may be a little outlandish, the goats and sheep CRMP have used for three years are quite effective.

I m convinced now they are critical to the wildlife that is there, from the birds on up, said Burrows, a CRMP coordinator.

The herbivores are part of a three-tiered approach. CRMP maintains the vegetation and ecosystem in a safe and controlled manner using prescribed burning, sheep and goats and mechanical tools such as swinging a 7-ton steel ball across the vegetation.

I think in this case, an ounce of prevention is worth 100 pounds of cure, Burrows said. The relationship is that massive or more.

Burrows uses the fire triangle he learned in fourth grade to explain how the prevention works.

The first point is oxygen, which humans cannot control, and the second is ignition, which can be controlled somewhat through education. The final point, fuel, can be controlled.

But as fires wreak devastation across California, it becomes apparent that by not letting fires take their natural course, fuels have built up for more than 60 years, he said.

The big picture, Burrows said, is to develop 300-foot-wide fire breaks from the Oregon border to Mexico, promote the use of prescribed fire for fire management and reduce the catastrophic buildup of fuel in the chaparral and timberlands.

If we don t take care of it, Mother Nature will, he said.

CRMP already has crushed and masticated 3,000 acres of brush, built 57 miles of fuel breaks and conducted 700 acres of prescribed burning, with another 4,000 acres slated to be burned.

The partners helping in the prevention and restoration include the area s 65 landowners, state and federal government organizations and state universities and community colleges.

The land lies 25 miles west of Red Bluff and extends 20 miles west and 10 miles north. Oak woodlands make up the lower elevations while dense brush composes the higher elevations.

Four thousand goats and sheep can maintain 40,000 acres, Burrows said. And their offspring can be sold to fund prevention.

You think all this is crazy stuff no, it s all real practical, he said.

The Associated Press reports California spends more than $1 billion a year on wildfires. But the cost of putting in fuel breaks, conducting prescribed burning and letting herbivores munch away vegetation is relatively inexpensive.

Vieva Swearingen, CRMP s fiscal manager, said she thinks if people could visit the CRMP area they could witness prevention s positive effects.

The fires they had in that part of the county stopped or slowed down because of those fuel breaks, she said.

Slow burning can also be beneficial to the forest, loosening seeds for regeneration and getting rid of unwanted vegetation.

Swearingen hopes local government representatives take action to help prevent future disasters, she said.

They get serious when the ashes are falling, and when they cool down they forget what they said, she said.

Burrows wants to be optimistic, he said. But, he does not know if the millions of dollars spent or the hundreds of thousands acres burned will be a sufficient enough lesson to prevent future disasters. Have we learned?

Burrows said. I don t have an answer for that.

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