Alternative to Raking the Forests

The current occupant of the White House has generously shared his knowledge, offering advice to fire-ravaged California. He said their problem is poor forest management. If the Golden State raked its forest floors, as he stated is done in Finland, where they spend “a lot of time on raking and cleaning,” there would not be the devastation. #RakeAmericaGreatAgain and #RakeNews soon were flying around the Internet.

The fact is, California’s conflagrations were largely wild brush fires. Forest fires, not so much.

Goats from Environmental Land Management clear a hillside in Anaheim Hills.

But many cities are increasingly using ancient-but-effective fire-prevention methods. Anaheim, Disneyland’s home town, just renewed its contract with a firm called Environmental Land Management to provide goats to graze on hillsides around the city. The company provides hundreds of goats who eat invasive grasses and dried brush, happily munch on terrain that is nearly impossible for humans with weed whackers to access. Even better, the animals eat mostly invasive plants and grasses, only minimally grazing on native plants. The native brush is not nearly as inflammable as the invading varieties.

Wet winters bring mixed blessings to California. While they alleviate drought conditions, the moisture also accelerates plant growth. Summer weather dries the vegetation, providing abundant fuel for fires.

Ultimately, though, the problem is people. As the state’s population grows and housing costs rise, homes are built in not-so-safe areas. The 2017 Tubbs fire razed 6,000 structures in the Santa Rosa area, a third of its tax base. A fire in 1964 had the same footprint but caused relatively little damage. Few homes were there then.

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