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The unconventional weapon against future wildfires: goats


In 2020, Ms. Malmberg co-founded the non-profit Goatapelli Foundation to teach people how to use goats to prevent wildfires. She said that of the 200 or so participants, only a few had launched their own businesses. Start-up costs can be as high as $360,000, Ms. Malmberg said, including equipment and livestock, which she trains herself.

“Lani is a leading example of someone who has carved the path and pioneered this industry of prescription grazing,” said Brittany Cole-Bush, one of Ms. Malmberg’s mentees and the owner of Shepherdess Land and Livestock in Ojai Valley, California “We want to support ecology as much as possible. We want to support the growth of native perennial grasses.” Ms Cole-Bush, who uses goats and sheep on her farm, believes that strengthening perennial grasses, rather than planting annual grasses, will make the land more drought-resistant.

Ms. Malmberg, who has a master’s degree in weed science from Colorado State University, spends most of the year in the West for work. Last year, the Bureau of Land Management first contracted Ms. Malmberg and her goats for firefighting in Carbondale, Colo.

“We thought the goats could meet our goals with their ability to work on steep slopes,” said Kristy Wallner, a land management specialist for the agency’s Colorado Valley field office. “It will be a useful tool for us to use in the future.”

In the rush to prevent wildfires from worsening, government agencies and local agencies seeking to remove excess weeds rely on herbicides and machinery, as well as prescription burns: deliberate fires that periodically clear undergrowth, dead trees and other fuels.

“Because of the wildfires, more people understand the urgency and are willing to try different tools than they are used to,” said Jenn Balch, a board member of the Goatapelli Foundation who plans to start a business in the Northeast that uses goats to feed. to recover. meadows and overgrown recreational areas.

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