Fighting fire with goats

Fighting fire with goats

10 May 2011

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Australia — While goats are often blamed for damaging the land, on the south coast of NSW, they’re being trialled as land managers to reduce bushfire risk near towns.

An American land management program using trained and penned goats is being adapted by Dr Jim Shields, a former environment manager with State Forests.

He says the basic 15-goat unit can expand to any size program, from smaller country towns to major regions like outer Melbourne or Sydney’s Blue Mountains, to strategically clean up landscapes prone to fires.

“Fire hazard areas right near town, that you would love to have a bit of a break in, and can’t put a real burn into, things that are too wet to burn, or if they were dry enough to burn they would set up (on fire) the whole town of Bega,” he said.

“And it has a really low carbon imprint, not putting a bunch of smoke up in the sky or running those big heavy bulldozers around.

“We got trained by the woman who does this in the Pacific north-west. We use electric netting and dogs, we net up areas that the goats can’t get out of, and we train the goats before they get in.”

Dr Shields says the goats are not ‘old billygoats’ from the bush, but are contained in discreet managed areas in units of 15 animals, making groups of 120 in total, which elevate the animal from its often pest status.

“We have lots of requests to do finely tuned fire hazard and weed management that can’t be done with machines or traditional burning, or people don’t want to spray, and this is a clean green way to get rid of your fire hazard or weed.”

Dr Shields is the wildlife manager with environmental consultancy Local Environment Solutions.

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