Goat Vegetation Reduction Project 2022

The Unconventional Tool Against Future Wildfire Risk

UC Santa Cruz is continuously investing in new strategies to protect and preserve both our campus community and its natural landscape. The newest program being implemented is utilizing goat herds in strategic locations across campus for fuel reduction.  These hungry goats will graze on about 30 acres of vegetation that would otherwise dry into potential wildfire fuel as summer arrives.  The goat herd, on campus from Mid April of until the last week of May, is just one part of a multi-pronged strategy to effectively manage the wildfire risk.

Benefits for Land Management

Goats provide a sustainable method of land management that traditional methods often struggle with or fall short of their annual and long term goals. Several factors including accessibility to land, costs and safety impact campus land management. Below are just a few of the benefits of utilizing goats for land management:    

  • Help manage large acreages
  • Manage inaccessible areas
  • Fire fuel load control
  • Invasive and noxious weed control
  • Economical cost compared to other methods 

Defensible Space for Fire Prevention

Creating defensible space is an ongoing process in fire prevention and fuel reduction on campus and our associated properties. Utilizing goats to reduce hazardous dry fuel loads in the wildland urban interface (WUI) is a new idea in fire prevention that is gaining traction across California. Below outline many of the ways goats can help in the continued effort of hazardous fuel reduction.   

  • Clears fire fuel loads from perimeters of structures and paths of egress
  • Removes dry fuel loads along hillsides that are not accessible
  • Goat grazing is an effective and sustainable removal method
  • Goat grazing addresses ladder fuel issues by creating separation between the tree canopy and the shaded fuels
  • Grazing avoids the danger of fires caused by accidental sparking from tools or equipment. Goat grazing targets and consumes unwanted vegetation, leaving behind cleared terrain. Whereas, cutting vegetation with machines or hand tools leaves behind downed biomass to be removed.

Goat Safety and Electric Fencing

For the duration of the Goat Vegetation Reduction Project, electric fencing will be used in the areas where goat grazing will take place.  These fences are safe to use by experienced goatherds and provide several benefits to the Project:

  • They clearly define the boundaries where goats will be grazing, preserving the perimeters of natural reserves and sensitive ecosystems on campus.
  • They protect the goats from predators who also inhabit the area, such as mountain lions.
  • They do not pose a health danger to the goats regardless of their age.

Goat Deployment Locations

The map embedded below shows the locations the goat will be deployed from Mid April to the end of May 2022. The areas selected include the UCSC Farm, the Chadwick Garden, the Quarry Amphitheater, and in some of the ravines with thick brush that are difficult to manage because of the steep topography.