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Goats chew through fire danger northeast of Durango

Herd is clearing 13 acres near Pioneer Trail
Goat-led wildfire mitigation is a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way of removing the brush that can fuel wildfires. (Journal file)

Edgemont Highlands Community Association has begun a goat-led wildfire mitigation project near Pioneer Trail northeast of Durango.

Edgemont and the San Juan National Forest’s Columbine Ranger District are creating a temporary detour of the trail, according the U.S. Forest Service. The detour will extend through Sept. 30 as the goat herd works to clear 13 acres of brush.

About 150 adult goats and their progeny – managed by Rx Grazing Services – will be set loose on the trail to remove the surrounding brush that can fuel wildfires, including Gambel oak leaves and western snowberry bush, while leaving the larger, older oak stems. Leaving the stems reduces ladder fuels, which carry fire into the tree canopy. Each goat eats about 30 pounds of leaves a day, which helps reduce fire risk.

“The goats are an effective way of creating fire mitigation around wildland-urban interface (WUI)” said Scott Owen, spokesman for San Juan National Forest. “They’re also an effective way of reducing fuel components, especially in areas that border on National Forest land.”

Pioneer Trail detour signs will be posted to direct visitors to the appropriate detour. All visitors to the area are asked to be careful of the temporary electric fencing designed to keep the goats near the trail.

Mountain bikers will not be able to use the trail to travel down to Florida Road (County Road 240). Those bikers going up Missionary Ridge Road or Nusbaum Road must continue east for 1.3 miles, take a left on Sortais Road and ride on to Nusbaum Road. They will need to reverse those directions when descending from Missionary Ridge.

The goat herd will have a full-time herder, two livestock guardian dogs and herding dogs. The Forest Service warns that hikers should find alternative trails in the area, and visitors in general should avoid the area altogether.

If hikers and visitors can’t avoid the area, dogs must be kept on a leash and away from the goats and working dogs. The Forest Service advises people not to approach or harass the livestock or working dogs in the area.

Goats eat the leaves off Gambel oak next to Edgemount Highlands Ranch subdivision. Each goat eats about 30 pounds of leaves a day. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Goat mitigation efforts will continue for three successive field seasons to create defensible space for Edgemont Highlands, which is a 500-plus acre, 430-home subdivision.

For more information, call the Columbine Ranger District at 884-2512.


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