Californians Start 'Goat Fund Me' Campaign in Effort to Bring Animal Farmers to City, Prevent Wildfires

Officials in Nevada City, California—population 3,100—have launched a "Goat Fund Me" campaign in a bid to prevent deadly wildfires spreading in the small Gold Rush community, tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The crowdfunding initiative is seeking $30,000 for a controlled, or "prescriptive," grazing program which will involve the deployment of a small army of goats and sheep on city land. The idea is that the animals will eat overgrown vegetation, minimizing the amount of flammable material.

"There is little need to stress how important it is to the safety and wellbeing of Nevada City citizens and neighboring residents that we reduce the fire load in our surrounding forests and neighborhoods," the project's GoFundMe page states. "The unprecedented fires in California, particularly in Paradise, have hit all too close to home and have become the ultimate Cautionary Tale."

"Our city staff, fire and police departments, as well as city council members realize how important it is that we take proactive steps NOW," the statement continued. "This is why we have been working for weeks with local ranchers to launch a goat/sheep prescriptive grazing on city-owned land including the over 450 acres of city-owned greenbelt."

Time is of the essence for city officials, who created the fundraiser because local goat and sheep ranchers are only available in the city on a large scale this winter (the herds have been rented out for the rest of next year,) and it usually takes weeks or months to secure funding for this type of project through traditional means.

The project will use goats to eat bushes, trees and shrubs, while the sheep will feed on grass. According to the GoFundMe page, prescriptive grazing can cost anywhere between $500 and $1,000 per acre, which is a relatively affordable way to manage overgrown vegetation. Furthermore, a herd of 200 goats can clear about acre per day.

The campaign was launched last month by Nevada City Vice Mayor Reinette Senum and has now raised nearly $12,000. The funds will go directly to the city to be overseen by financial director Loree McCay.

Senum said the community—which lies around 47 miles southeast of the town of Paradise that was destroyed in November by the deadly Camp Fire—is particularly vulnerable to wildfires.

"We're an outdoorsy community, she told the Los Angeles Times. "We spend a lot of time in nature and we're packed with brush that turns into tinder that needs to be cleared. "Why not do something—and as soon as we can? If we're not proactive, if we don't help ourselves, no one else is going to step up."

"These goats, they're easy on the land, they've got little hooves and have a low impact compared to heavy machinery," Senum said.

Goats can be used to help prevent wildfires. iStock