After years of fighting the notion that brush clearance helps
Armed with appetites and attitudes, brush-clearing goats will mow down weeds and shrubs from even the steepest of Southern California’s hillsides. Perfectly adapted to a life of constant browsing, these ruminants are being deployed as a shield against the region’s rampant wildfires. These “Brush Goats 4 Hire” reduce the invasive plants and fuel that contributes to the fires.
Year after year, Californian environmentalists litigated and lobbied to stop efforts to clear the forests through timber harvesting, underbrush removal, and controlled burns. Meanwhile, natural fires were suppressed and the forests became more and more overgrown. The excessive biomass competed for the same water, soil, and light a healthier forest would have used, rendering all of the trees and underbrush unhealthy. It wasn’t just excess biomass that accumulated, but dried out and dead biomass.
What happened among California’s tall stands of Redwood and Ponderosa Pine also happened in its extensive chaparral. Fire suppression along with too many environmentalist-inspired bureaucratic barriers to controlled burns and undergrowth removal turned the hillsides and canyons of Southern California into tinderboxes.
In 2009, after huge blazes wiped out homes and forced thousands to evacuate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich observed: “The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today.”
In 2014, Republican members of Congress tried again to reduce the bureaucracy associated with “hazardous fuel projects” that thin out overgrown forests. True to form, the bill got nowhere thanks to environmental lobbyists who worried it would undermine the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that requires thorough impact assessments ahead of government decisions on public lands.
In a blistering report published in the California Globe on how environmentalists have destroyed California’s forests, investigative journalist Katy Grimes interviewed Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents communities in and around the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. McClintock has worked for years to reform NEPA and other barriers to responsible forest management.
“The U.S. Forest Service used to be a profitable federal agency,” McClintock told Grimes. “Up until the mid-1970s, we managed our national forests according to well-established and time-tested forest management practices. But 40 years ago, we replaced these sound management practices with what can only be described as a doctrine of benign neglect. Ponderous, Byzantine laws and regulations administered by a growing cadre of ideological zealots in our land management agencies promised to save the environment. The advocates of this doctrine have dominated our law, our policies, our courts and our federal agencies ever since.”
But these zealots have not protected the forests. They have destroyed them. The consequences are far-reaching.
And now the goats have come to their rescue.