Goats and sheep are helping the City sustainably prevent wildfire – here’s how

More than 1,300 grazing goats and sheep have descended upon 130 acres in Del Paso Regional Park as part of a “Grazing Pilot Program” through the Department of Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment (YPCE) to help sustainably reduce fire fuels.

“The City is responsible for many open spaces that require mowing to reduce fire fuels,” said Park Planning and Development Manager Raymond Costantino. “Del Paso Regional is a location that has limited access for our large mowers and flailing units. The animals can get where our equipment cannot.”

This is the first time YPCE has utilized livestock to reduce fire fuels.

“We are seeing grazing at many surrounding municipalities,” Costantino said. “Grazing is a sustainable way to reduce fire fuels, such as grasses.”

Mowing also can create large amounts of dead plant material, known as thatch, which creates higher fire fuels and can reduce the success of native grasses and forbs, said Costantino.

This is a new endeavor for the City, and YPCE is working to develop the program during this pilot.

“Utilizing sheep and goats for grazing is a step in the right direction,” Costantino said. “We are fine-tuning the areas to be grazed, the duration of the grazing, the amount of residual dry matter left on the ground and the mix of goats and sheep to help us learn how to best apply this program to other parks in the city.”

The animals are provided through a contract with a ranching company. The grazing is expected to be completed by mid-September.

At the end of the pilot, the City will evaluate whether the livestock have successfully reduced fire fuels and will decide whether to move forward with the program annually.

Visitors to Del Paso Regional Park should expect trails to be intermittently closed while the animals are grazing.