Agency: In the rush to prevent worsening wildfires in the American West, state and local agencies that want to remove excess weeds rely on herbicides and machinery as well as prescribed burns: intentional fires that periodically clear underbrush, dead trees and other fuels.
Lani Malmberg, a goat herder, takes a different approach. She deploys her 200 goats to graze strategically, a technique she developed in graduate school. It’s a two-part strategy, one aimed at preventing fires rather than simply quelling them.
First, the goats, which can stand up to nine feet tall on their back legs, eat the grass, leaves and tall brush that cows and other grazers can’t reach. This type of vegetation is known as the fire fuel ladder and leads to wider spread when wildfires spark.
Then, their waste returns organic matter to the soil, increasing its potential to hold water. A 1 percent increase in organic matter can hold an additional 16,500 gallons of water per acre, Malmberg said.