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Fort Ord Uses Thousands Of Goats For Fire Prevention

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Michelle Loxton
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This herd of goats grazes up to two acres everyday.

Grazing goats have been credited with stopping the spread of wildfires, including the one north of Los Angeles recently that threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Fort Ord National Monument has been using these goats for years to reduce the threat of fire.

Ronald Aquino works with "Goats R Us." As hikers trek through Fort Ord, Aquino calls out to the hundreds of goats that he cares for around the clock.

These gentle animals are in charge of gnawing through approximately 2,500 acres of grasslands on the former Army base to create fire breaks. 

Botanist Bruce Delgado is with the Bureau of Land Management, which manages Fort Ord. He says when it comes to fire prevention, they’ve had great success with these grazers.

 

 

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Credit Michelle Loxton
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Goat herder Ronald Aquino and Botanist Bruce Delgado stand among the herd at Fort Ord National Monument.

“Where they have grazed there's practically zero chance of a fire because there's no fuel left to carry a fire,” said Delgado. 

Delgado says they’re also important to the health of native vegetation.

 

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Credit Michelle Loxton
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Of the roughly 2,000 goats living on Fort Ord, about 850 are part of Ronald Aquino's herd.

“The number two goal is to promote biodiversity, native plants, by removing the non-native plants and to promote the growth of coastal grassland, which is a sensitive habitat,” Delgado said. 

The herd munches through two acres everyday. They’ll live on Fort Ord until about April. Then, they’ll move on to other customers. And if they are too old, they are moved into retirement.

 

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Credit Michelle Loxton
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Bruce Delgado calls the goats gentle animals.

The BLM is currently conducting field experiments and studying the success of these goats. They’ll use the results to better manage them in years to come. 

About 2,000 goats are currently grazing on the Fort Ord National Monument. Some arrived just this week.

 

From 2019 to 2021 Michelle Loxton worked at KAZU as an All Things Considered host and reporter. During that time she reported on a variety of topics from the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic and local elections. Loxton was part of the news team that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for the continued coverage of the four major wildfires that engulfed California’s Central Coast in 2020.
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