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ABSTRACT: “Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management.”
SPEAKERS: Robert Freese, PhD, Irvine Ranch Conservancy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Alissa Cope, Sage Environmental Group (acope@SageEnvironmentalGroup.com)
Prescribed grazing involves targeting undesired plants for removal while preventing overgrazing through close monitoring and adaptive management. Sage Environmental Group (Sage) owns an in-house herd of goats used to suppress invasive plants and remove fire fuel load. Herd ownership is unique for an environmental planning firm and an advantage to land managers who can rely on grazing activities that are planned and implemented from a scientific and reguIatory compliance perspective in accordance with local conservation plans.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) manages 30,000 acres of wildlands in Orange County and practices landscape-scale restoration with the goal of creating resilient and diverse habitats. Priority is given to restoring ecosystem processes whenever possible. IRC has collaborated with Sage to explore two applications of goat grazing in habitat restoration.
The first study involves prescribed grazing to reduce thatch cover, selectively remove annual grasses, and increase vigor of purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) in a native grassland restoration project. Response of native grasslands to grazing relative to mowing and control plots is examined with respect to cover, density, and vigor (e.g. numbers of inflorescences) of purple needlegrass. Cover of annual grasses and thickness of the thatch layer are also examined.
The second study involves intensive, multi-year grazing to deplete the weed seed bank and prepare sites for direct seeding with native species. This latter project is a recent experiment being tried in locales where synthetic herbicides are not an option. Preliminary data include percent removal of annual grasses and broad leaf weeds, thatch reduction, and presence of viable seeds within fecal pellets. Results will be compared with data from adjacent mowed plots. In both projects, the timing, duration, and frequency of grazing with respect to grass and weed phenology need to be carefully considered.