Castle Pines deploys goats to tamp down wildfire risks

Program targets areas with invasive plants and brush

Sara Martin smartin@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/12/22

Don’t be surprised if you see goats in Castle Pines, they’re there to help prevent wildfires.

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Castle Pines deploys goats to tamp down wildfire risks

Program targets areas with invasive plants and brush

Posted

Residents should not be surprised if they see goats throughout Castle Pines in recent weeks. The animals are roaming the area as part of a wildfire prevention program.

The City of Castle Pines has partnered with Goats On The Go’s local affiliate, Denver South to bring its herd to help clean up fire hazards such as invasive plants and brush.

“The City of Castle Pines first used goats as a part of wildfire mitigation efforts in 2015 and works in partnership with risk mitigation specialists from South Metro Fire Rescue, as well as local HOAs, to identify areas that have a high risk for wildfire,” said Camden Bender, the communications manager for Castle Pines. “This year, after a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is partnering with Castle Pines North HOA #1, HOA #2, and Glen Oaks HOA to tackle identified areas. The city is also partnering with the Castle Pines North Metro District for mitigation efforts in open space owned by the Metro District.”

This is the first time the goats have returned in three years to help with fire mitigation. 

“The community response has been highly supportive of the mitigation efforts," Bender said. "Living in Colorado, we all know that wildfires pose a risk, especially during dry conditions. Residents are encouraged to visit the grazing areas and watch the goats in action." 

Goats on The Go Denver South is operated by two people, Russ McKenna and Harmony Davies. The two initiated the affiliate branch in 2020. They manage a herd of 73 goats, ranging in various breeds. The goal for the goats is to eat away the risks of fires, such as scrub oak, an invasive plant to Colorado, which can be difficult for firefighters to extinguish since it burns at such a high temperature.

“Probably 80% of our work is fire mitigation instead of weed-work, which we're happy to do," McKenna said. "We feel it's a very important part of our business from a community perspective because fire is such a big hazard out here."

Many of the people in the HOA’s have been generously helped provide water from their homes for the goats in the neighborhood, otherwise, they would have to manually haul it in.

McKenna and Davies lease a 39-acre property where the herd grazes when they’re not out working. The land is also home to their guardian dogs, which watch out over the goats and protect them from predators.

“I've spent my prior career kind of taking from the planet, flying all those miles and all those rental cars and all those hotels and all of that was me taking resources and giving back pollution for 25 years,” McKenna said when asked why he got into the goat business.

He was an IT consultant for 26 years and was burnt out. “Honestly, I was looking for how far away I could get from that, and I think I found it,” McKenna said. “It's just all-around good for us  and it makes us happy every single day.”

Davies has a similar story — she grew up in Utah, but moved to Denver in the 90s to pursue the rock music scene, but eventually ended up working for a health insurance agency for ten years instead. Tired of the corporate lifestyle, she also joined the goat business. 

Davies said the work she is doing is her part of environmental reclamation and sees this as returning the land to what it was before cattle overgrazed it. 

“I just want to heal as much soil as I can," she said. "Because I feel like this is the way I combat climate change is by fixing soil where it's been destroyed for 100 years."

Goats On The Go South Denver is booked completely through the fall, but is looking forward to servicing more communities in the future.

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