Southern California Edison has contracted with Chasin Goat Grazing of Santa Rosa to clear brush and prevent wildfire. Photo by Frank Lopez
Written by Frank Lopez
Southern California Edison (SCE), which owns the land around Shaver Lake, is in the second session of its goat grazing pilot program that started last year near SCE’s Big Creek Hydroelectric plant and Shaver Lake’s Balsam Forebay.
Because of high fire risk, SCE chose an alternative method to mitigate about 15 acres of vegetation near transmission lines in the mountainous northern portion of the utility’s service area.
The goat grazing pilot is part of SCE’s overall vegetation management program and 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Plan.
SCE partnered with Chasin Goat Grazing, a service out of Santa Rosa, to provide 400 goats for vegetation management.
Goats consume about two to four pounds of vegetation a day, depending on density, and can graze through about an acre of land in a day or two.
Brian Sprinkle, SCE vegetation management and forestry manager, said that historically, vegetation mitigation involved hand-cutting methods such as chainsaws and the use of heavy machinery, leaving a larger environmental impact.
“The goats reduce that human element of traversing these rugged terrains. Goats are well designed to be in the rocky terrain and mountainous areas,” Sprinkle said. “The more places we could utilize this reduces the risk for people that are helping us maintain vegetation around our powerline from getting hurt. The less we use machines and mechanized equipment, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and help push the future of sustainability within this program.”
Staying in a nearby camping trailer, two livestock herders and their dogs manage the goats, keeping them safe from predators.
Chase Cianfichi, owner of Chasin Goat Grazing and a Fresno State graduate, started his business in 2016 with 10 goats.
He now has more than 800 goats on his farm.
Cianfichi said there is a growing trend of grazing companies handling vegetation mitigation services, both for larger companies and private residents.
“The goats just come out here and do what they do,” Cianfichi said. “They eat until they get full, take a nap, and then wake up to eat again.”