NEVADA – Carson City’s unique approach to mitigating wildfire risk has been a resounding success for over 17 years now. The innovative project involves two bands of sheep grazing on lands near the city as part of a fuel reduction initiative.
The program began in 2004 following the Waterfall Fire, which destroyed seventeen buildings and a significant portion of the west side of Carson City. The sheep were brought in as an emergency response effort to combat the wildfire, and the initiative has been continued ever since.
The sheep are natural lawnmowers, effectively eliminating dry grass and shrubs in the area. One sheep can consume up to five pounds of dry vegetation each day. Although smaller fires have occurred in Carson City since the introduction of the sheep, their impact has been significant in reducing the risk and intensity of the fires.
According to Lyndsey Boyer, Open Space Manager for Carson City Parks, Recreation and Open Space, “There was a fire right in this area in 2018, and when it came through, it burned much less intensely than we would have seen had the sheep not been grazing in this area. So the idea is not necessarily to stop all wildfire. We know that wildfire is a natural part of living in the Great Basin, but the idea is just to have the fires be less intense and bide time for emergency response to come out.”
The sheep are raised by the Borda Land and Sheep Company at their ranch in Gardnerville. The Bordas, a Basque family with a century-long history of sheep-raising, invite the public to come and observe the sheep while they are grazing. However, visitors are urged to leave their dogs at home as they pose a significant danger to the sheep bands.
Credits: Fox Reno
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