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Eco-heroes to the rescue

At the beginning of October, the community of Roxborough Park in Douglas County, Colo., began fire mitigation in the common property areas. To assist with the effort, they brought in Lani Malmberg and her 400 goats. Dick Hart, chairman of the fire mitigation committee for the homeownerís association-governed residential area, which includes about 1,000 homes, said the terrain is similar to the Waldo Canyon area in Colorado Springs. The goats from Malmbergís Goat Green LLC provided a solution to mitigating the steep terrain.ìMuch of our terrain is too steep for mechanical treatment, or it is very arduous work for chainsaws and that type of equipment,î Hart said. ìThe goats like the steep terrain. It gets us away from using chemicals or getting machines out there. Goats are much better received by the community.îMalmberg said she got the idea to use goats for fire mitigation when she was finishing her graduate degree at Colorado State University. ìI got a masterís degree in weed science and learned how well goats eat weeds,î she said. ìI thought that somebody ought to start a business, where you put an animal with the right diet preference to eat things that people donít want. I stumbled across some cashmere goats for sale, and I knew I would make my business work with the goats.îSeventeen years later, Malmberg said she is working all day, every day with her goats. ìI make sure the goats have food, water and shelter every day of the year,î she said. ìWeíre on contract every day of the year so whatever the contract says, thatís what Iím doing ñ just in different places, working with different people in a different setting and with different specifications.îìThe goats will eat about 3 percent of their body weight daily so the goats we have now consume well over a ton of biomass daily,î Hart said. ìThey are browsers rather than grazers. They love small bushes and scrub oak. The grass is really at the bottom of their food preference chain. They would rather be standing on their back legs eating brush.îMalmberg said her goats are healthy because they are constantly being moved to places with fresh food available. ìWe move about every 30 days to a whole new place,î she said. ìItís my job to make sure we keep jobs all the time. We need to have a place to go.îWhile the cost of travel can get relatively high, especially if she has to leave her current location to attend a meeting about a potential job, Malmberg said her overall cost of living is low. ìI have a camper, and I live right beside the goats; and I just move it as we go,î she said. ìIím on the jobsite all the time.îOnce the goats have finished mitigating the contracted area, Malmberg said she has contracts with semi ñtrailer trucks that have four decks; and, using a portable ramp, she and her border collies herd the goats onto the truck. She and the herd then travel to the next location, and often return to the same places year after year to keep the weeds down, Malmberg said.Her herd boasts a perfect record for keeping fires clear of the areas theyíve mitigated, she said.Hart said the Roxborough Park community has also seen individual property owners ban together and share the cost of having the goats mitigate on their private property, which he didnít expect. ìItís great because ember fires donít really distinguish between property lines, so your neighborís lack of action can really have an impact on you,î he said. ìPricewise, this is much cheaper than manpower or mechanical methods.îAside from fire mitigation, Malmberg said her herd has been used to reclaim areas that have been disturbed by oil and gas operations. ìThey can be used to reseed and mitigate noxious weeds at well sites,î she said. ìThey mitigate and fertilize at the same time. Theyíre really doing about 12 things at a time.îChevron has been her biggest client on the reclamation side of her business, Malmberg said. ìWeíve gotten stuff to grow in places that havenít grown anything in 60 years, and we did it in one,î she said. ìI call them eco-heroes because theyíre magic in how they work the land.îBy late October or early November, Malmberg said she and her herd will be heading to Colorado Springs to work on the Bear Creek Gardens and the Mesa Road HOA.

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