Goats on the graze on Roaring Fork Valley BLM lands starting this week

Hundreds of goats were used last summer at Sutey Ranch to eat grasses and noxious weeds.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Get ready to share some of the area Bureau of Land Management trails with several hundred four-legged vegetarians beginning this week.

The land agency is again making use of about 1,000 goats to help reduce wildfire fuel and improve wildlife habitat at three different locations in the lower Roaring Fork Valley, the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office announced.

Recreational users are advised that they may encounter goats on BLM-administered lands at Light Hill west of Emma for the next several weeks, followed by the Crown area southwest of El Jebel in late September, early October, and Sutey Ranch north of Carbondale later in the fall.

The areas remain open to the public, and no roads or trails will be closed during the goat grazing, but the BLM asks that people ensure their dogs are leashed in these areas to avoid conflicts with the goats and working dogs, a news release states.

The local BLM office has been using intensive goat grazing as a management tool for three years, BLM Assistant Field Manager Hilary Boyd said in the release.   

To start, the goats will be grazing about 100 acres at Light Hill to help maintain the fuel break created by a prescribed fire in 2009. The site is too steep to be maintained with heavy equipment, Boyd explained.

At the Crown, the BLM will be using goat grazing to help reduce thick stands of oak brush on about 73 acres to supplement nearby mechanical treatments, she said.

“The combination of targeted goat grazing and mechanical treatments will create openings in the thick oak brush, which reduces wildfire fuels and improves wildlife habitat,” Boyd said in the release. “The fuel breaks at Light Hill and the Crown will give firefighters areas to more safely and effectively engage potential wildfires.”  

The BLM has been using goats since 2020 at Sutey Ranch to help rebuild soils and increase the plant diversity in the former agricultural fields, where a network of horseback, hiking and mountain biking trails now exist.

“The short-term, high-intensity grazing helps remove the non-native crested wheatgrass and smooth brome, creating openings for more desirable plants that provide greater forage quality for mule deer, elk and other wildlife,” Boyd said. “Weeds are removed without the use of herbicides, and the goats’ hooves help till the soil while their droppings provide a natural fertilizer.”


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