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Locals out for a hike saw them on the slopes of Montini Open Space Preserve earlier this month: several sheep (and a few goats) brought in to “reduce fuel loads” to a more manageable level.

Because Sonoma Ecology Center manages Montini for the City of Sonoma, we hired a grazing business to bring their animals to designated parts of the preserve (see this map). As Restoration Program Manager David Morgan explained, the shepherds “brought in a mix of mostly sheep and some goats. This tactic was used because sheep only feed on herbaceous material while the goats will also eat woody material.”

David also noted that “Grazing, especially in larger landscapes, is more beneficial than just mowing and can be more cost effective.” According to the city, the grazers were expected to eat about 80 percent of the grass.

It’s worth mentioning that mowing or grazing grass does not eliminate all fire risk. But the less fuel there is to ignite, the slower and lower a fire will be, giving firefighters an edge should a fire develop.

For more on making your own property more fire smart (as well as water wise and wildlife friendly), see our brochure.