16 Feb 2022
Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management Presentation to California Association of Resource Conservation Districts Conference 2020
VIDEO: Click here or play button in image above.
TITLE: Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management
SPEAKERS: Robert Freese, PhD, Senior Project Manager, Irvine Ranch Conservancy and Alissa Cope, Principal Planner and Restoration Ecologist, Sage Environmental Group.
(Introductory biographies are embedded in the video’s audio track).
NOTE: This presentation is an update of a panel discussion about Prescribed Grazing at the 2019 California Invasive Plant Council Symposium. Updates include 2020 status of the two case studies…..two success stories.
ABSTRACT: Prescribed grazing involves targeting undesired plants for removal while preventing overgrazing through close monitoring and adaptive management. IRC has collaborated with Sage to explore applications of goat grazing in habitat restoration at two sites.
SAGE: 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.
IRC. Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) manages 30,000 acres of wildlands in Orange County, CA and practices landscape-scale restoration with the goal of creating resilient and diverse habitats. Priority is given to restoring ecosystem processes whenever possible.
CASE STUDY #1. 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.
2020 UPDATE: Grazing removed thatch and increased absolute cover of purple needlegrass from 83 percent (2017) to 91 percent (2019). Non-native vegetation (mostly annual grasses) decreased from 39 percent to 20 percent absolute cover. Grazing created openings for introduction of native forbs. Forb cover was poor in 2017 but common in 2019, especially Deinandra fasciculata, Amsinkia menziesii, and Escholtzia californica. All success criteria were met and sign-off was obtained in July 2020.
CASE STUDY #2. The second study involves intensive, multi-year grazing to deplete the weed seed bank and prepare sites for direct seeding with native species. This project is a recent experiment being tried in locales where use of synthetic herbicides is 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.
2020 UPDATE: One season of grazing reduced the extent of annual grasses that germinated the following spring. The extent of non-native forbs that germinated the following spring remained high. Additional seasons of grazing are needed for control. Thatch removal by grazing allowed a proliferation of native annual forbs.
~ City of Laguna Niguel Civic Alert
Message from the City of Laguna Niguel (Mar 4): "The City of Laguna Niguel is happy to announce that it will be utilizing goat grazing as part of its Weed Abatement Program in select areas as a proactive method of fire prevention. This will be an effective, efficient and eco-friendly method of Fire Fuel Weed Control."
Featured Photo: (L-R): Council Member John Mark Jennings, Council Member Elaine Gennawey, Mayor Laurie Davies, Council Member Sandy Rains, Sage Environmental Group owner Alissa Cope, Mayor Pro Tem Fred Minagar.
LINK: Civic Alert
WHEN: March – June 2020
WHERE: Reef Park, Kite Hill, La Hermosa Park, and La Vita
CONTACT: Jerry Sollom, Parks and Landscape Maintenance Superintendent
(949) 362-4349 work (949) 795-1537 cell
MEDIA COVERAGE: OC Register
Residents are invited to view goat grazing from hiking trails near the work areas during daylight hours. Heed the warning signs. Do Not Touch Electric Fence.
Currently, goat grazing is at La Hermosa Park. The city's webpage civic alert will be updated with real-time goat grazing locations once they are relocated.
Managing fire fuel weeds is an important part of reducing fire threat and fire intensity. In addition, it is extremely critical in the defensible space surrounding homes and buildings.
~ City of Laguna Niguel
~ Meet and Greet at the Laguna Niguel Civic Center
To kick off this goat grazing pilot program, the city invited their new weed abatement contractor, Sage Environmental Group, to visit the civic center ..... and bring a few goats!
Alissa Cope, owner of Sage Goat Grazing, and Carson Helton, Field Director, arrived with two adorable juvenile goats named "Disney" and "Rocky." The two goats charmed their hosts and were happy to be fed treats of hay and pose for photos.
This meet and greet was a great opportunity for city officials and others to learn more about the benefits of goat grazing for weed abatement and how the program will work as a fire prevention method at four sites on city-owned property. Some benefits are:
- Natural weed control method that does not harm the environment.
- Targets and consumes unwanted vegetation, leaving behind cleared terrain.
- Helps the ecosystem to recover by removing invasive and non-native plants.
- Goats graze large acreage and steep areas where mechanical control is not feasible.
We are the only environmental consulting firm that owns and manages an in-house herd of goats, which makes us unique within the ecological conservation and weed abatement sector. Our approach to goat grazing is targeted and effective in order to eradicate invasive, fire-prone weeds while avoiding desired native plants that are critical to habitat restoration goals.
~ Alissa Cope, owner, Sage Environmental Group
~ Goat Grazing at Reef Park in Laguna Niguel
The first week of goat grazing kicked off after a few days of heavy rain. The targeted invasive black mustard was thick and tall. The goats unloaded from their carrier and eagerly started munching away. They cleared a large area with ease, then settled down after dark to digest. The first two photos depict the weeds before and after goat grazing.
Invitation From the Mayor
Message from the City of Irvine (Feb 19): "The State of the City is one week away and we've got something special planned! From 3-6 p.m., our grazing goats will be on-site at the Irvine Civic Center, giving residents a chance to learn more about how they are being used to maintain our open space and prevent wildfires. A reception will be held at 5 p.m., followed by Mayor Christina L. Shea's State of the City Address at 6 p.m." Details here... and here...
Mayor’s Address Highlights Green Initiatives
State of the City 2020. Under Mayor Shea's leadership, in 2016, the City of Irvine adopted the nation's first non-toxic herbicide policy that requires an organic approach to weed control on city-owned property, including parks, sports fields, greenbelts and open space. Read Integrated Pest Management policy here.
For the city's forward-thinking approach, in February 2020, the California EPA, Department of Pesticide Regulation, presented an award to the mayor and others integrally involved in crafting the city's organic policy during a ceremony in Sacramento. Read press release here.
Mayor Shea's State of the City address highlighted the city's Green Initiatives with recognition during her presentation, displays in the lobby of city hall and an interactive goat exhibit on the main plaza. She praised the use of goats on city property over the past year and announced expansion into more areas of the city this year to assist with weed and fire abatement.
"Our goats are an important component of our non-toxic program," Mayor Shea said.
View Speech Video City of Irvine Website
View Speech Transcript City of Irvine Website
"It is a privilege to support Irvine's organic IPM initiative by providing goat grazing services for weed abatement and habitat restoration." Alissa Cope, Principal, Sage Environmental Group
IPM Award ~~ Mayor Shea and Ayn Craniun
Irvine Mayor Shea Visits Sage Goat Grazing Exhibit
Preschool Children Visit With Sage Goats
Irvine Council Member Anthony Kuo Feeds Goats
Irvine Mayor Shea with Sage Owner Alissa Cope
Sage Goat Grazing Featured in Irvine Green Initiatives
Preschooler Pets Goats in Interactive Display
Irvine Agenda Goat Grazing Exhibit at 3PM
Irvine IPM Initiative Poster Display
Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management Presentation to California Invasive Plant Council Symposium 2019
VIDEO: Click here or play button in image above.
ABSTRACT: “Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management.”
SPEAKERS: Robert Freese, PhD, Irvine Ranch Conservancy (email@example.com) 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.
Sage Environmental Group specializes in habitat restoration and weed abatement. Our in-house herd of goats is an important component of our approach as a natural method of fire fuel load control. We support fire authorities, municipalities and home owners associations in Southern California. Unique in the grazing industry, all work is completed under the supervision of restoration ecologists, wildlife biologists, and regulatory specialists who manage all planning and execution of field activities. Sage is a registered vendor with CALFIRE and county/municipal fire departments. Sage holds a CSLB Landscape Contractor License, and Department of Pesticide Regulations herbicide applicator license.
Sage Environmental Group is often asked, "are the weed seeds viable after they pass through the goat's digestive system?" "Aren't they just eliminating and spreading weed seeds throughout the grazing site thus defeating the purpose of grazing?"
We determined to conduct our own germination test to answer that question. Our herd of goats are an important part of our weed abatement approach.
We believe the weed seeds are destroyed sufficiently. A goat chews weed seeds then passes them through four stomachs in the digestion process.
Alissa Cope, Principal Restoration Ecologist, prepared and monitored three test samples as depicted in the photo.
First, she planted new native seeds, purchased from a grower, in new sterile soil. This served as the control to demonstrate that the seeds were viable. These seeds successfully sprouted.
Second, she planted the native seeds in sterile soil and added goat droppings. These native seeds also successfully sprouted. No weed seeds sprouted.
Third, she added goat droppings to the sterile soil, but did not include native seed. This was the determining step. Nothing grew from the goat droppings.
Conclusion, seeds are not viable once they have passed through the goat's digestive system.
Future Research: Sage is recruiting university students who are interested in participating in research. We plan to conduct a series of similar tests utilizing soil from a variety of grazing sites. If you are interested in joining this research project, get in touch.
Irvine Mayor Shea hosted a Wildfire Management Event at Fire Station 47
The City of Irvine Mayor Christina L. Shea recently hosted a Wildland Management Event in Quail Hill at Fire Station 47. Exhibits and activities included a Firefighter Hand Crew Demonstration, Goat Grazing, fire equipment, various information booths, and remarks by the mayor, the fire chief, and the police chief. Mayor Shea led one of her frequent trail walks. She was joined by a group of Irvine residents.
The Sage herd of weed abatement goats were in 2 areas: a large field full of yummy weeds and an enclosure where children and adults could feed and pet them. The goats love to help with weed control for wildfire prevention.
We invite you to view enjoy this short video prepared by Mayor Shea and the City of Irvine.
Wildland Management Event Video
The City of Irvine Mayor Christina L. Shea recently visited an Irvine Ranch Conservancy habitat restoration site at Bommer Canyon, where Sage Environmental Group was contracted to deploy its in-house herd of goats to graze invasive and non-native weeds during May 2019.
The site is located within Bommer Canyon in the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve. The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is implementing this habitat restoration project in partnership with the City of Irvine. The project is in an area that was part of Irvine's historic cattle operations that resulted in overgrazing and the introduction of non-native plants and weeds, which degraded the natural habitat.
Targeted, intensive goat grazing is being tested as a method to consume the weeds and seeds and prepare the site for direct seeding with native species. The restoration area will link existing coastal sage scrub habitat on the adjacent hillside with restored riparian habitat.
We invite you to view this short video that includes remarks by Christina L. Shea (Mayor, City of Irvine), David Raetz (Deputy Director, Irvine Ranch Conservancy), and Alissa Cope (Principal Planner/Habitat Restoration, Sage Environmental Group).
Goats in Bommer Canyon
Alissa Cope, Principal Planner and Habitat Restoration Specialist, will address the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Environmental Planners luncheon on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at the Irvine Civic Center.
She will discuss the benefits of goat grazing as an effective method of invasive plant eradication and fire fuel load removal. Sage Environmental Group owns an in-house herd of goats now working in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
This 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 regulatory compliance perspective in accordance with local conservation plans to prevent over grazing and achieve restoration goals.