With peak fire season approaching, members of the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association prepared their canyons earlier this month with the help of a four-legged source – goats.
The association worked with the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department (SBFD) to designate the canyons as areas of concern in the city’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, determining that they were at risk fire and that the community needed to take action. While efforts were made with the fire department to mitigate fire danger areas, the general lack of funding led the association to take matters into their own hands.
Last year they hired Cuyama Lamb LLC graze in the smaller canyon of Eucalyptus Hill to clear flammable vegetation. This year they have partnered with Ventura Brush Goats, whose goats help with vegetation management, fuel reduction and land regeneration. According to Cornell Small Farms Programsheep and goats have become an increasingly popular option for mitigating fires, as they have a “knack for eating weeds, brush, and just about anything with a green leaf.”
Loy Beardsmore, board chairman of the Eucalyptus Hill Improvement Association, said this method of fire prevention will give firefighters a real opportunity to control future fires that may ignite in the Eucalyptus Hill area.
Grazing animals are competitive with other vegetation management methods, but offer a faster method of clearing flammable foliage. Goats can eat vegetation that causes fuel scales, which can carry fire from low brush to taller trees and quickly spread a wildfire.
“We’re trying to grow to meet the demand,” said Michael Leicht, owner of Ventura Brush Goats. “It is an increasingly popular choice for vegetation management because of all the soil health benefits and positive environmental impact.”
The owners of the entire Eucalyptus hill that owns and borders these canyons have donated to the fire prevention effort. The goats grazed the canyon behind Alston Road, Rametto Lane, Cima Linda Lane and Owen Road as they meandered toward the Montecito Country Club, leaving far less brush behind.