La Verne avoids brush fires with goats, sheep

Timothy Amerson inspects a 2-day-old goat near Marshall Canyon in La Verne on Tuesday. Amerson, who is employed by the La Verne Land Conservancy, is working with more than 100 goats and sheep to clear dry brush near homes in the La Verne foothills. They’ve already cleared nine acres. Amerson’s job involves caring for the animals, keeping them safe from predators, and making sure they don’t wander away. / photo by Daniel Torres
Timothy Amerson inspects a 2-day-old goat near Marshall Canyon in La Verne on Tuesday. Amerson, who is employed by the La Verne Land Conservancy, is working with more than 100 goats and sheep to clear dry brush near homes in the La Verne foothills. They’ve already cleared nine acres. Amerson’s job involves caring for the animals, keeping them safe from predators, and making sure they don’t wander away. / photo by Daniel Torres

Sierra Dasher
Staff Writer

The city of La Verne is currently using goats and sheep for brush clearance in an open lot at the top of Wheeler Avenue, rather than the harsher method of mechanical disking.

La Verne decided to choose a more environmentally friendly process for brush fire prevention in the lot and brought in a herd of goats and sheep to maintain the weeds.

“They used to disk it with the machines, but the people didn’t like the dust and it’s a fire hazard,” said Timothy Amerson, on-site manager.

“It could hit a rock or a piece of metal and start a fire.”

The La Verne Land Conservancy has been working with La Verne to help preserve the remaining open spaces around the city and hopes to eventually open them up for public use, LVLC President Kathy Winsor said.

The city paired up with the Firestone Boy Scout Reservation and brought in 160 goats and more than 30 sheep to help control the weeds, Amerson said.

Amerson has been working as an on-site manager and has been handling the goats and sheep for about five months.

He said he has seen a positive difference in land maintenance when the goats and sheep are able to help preserve it.

The animals are able to eat and stomp down all the weeds in the area, so if a fire were to come through, there would be less for it to consume, Amerson said.

Due to the lack of nutrition in the weeds, the goats and sheep are provided with mineral buckets and water, and two dogs help guard them from coyotes and other wildlife, Amerson said.

Winsor wished the goats and sheep were able to come in early March, rather than late April, because all the weeds have dried up and the goats are less inclined to eat them.

The LVLC hopes to work with La Verne in the future to help open up the land to passive recreation, such as hiking, biking and horseback riding, Winsor said.

“(La Verne) has earmarked some funds for this next fiscal year to reinvigorate that process and start looking at hopefully opening it up for some recreational opportunities,” she said.

In 2007, the LVLC worked with La Verne to help create a management plan for developing the open space.

However, due to the economy downturn that year, the plan was put on hold because of the lack of funding.

Winsor would like the city to see it as more than a weed-filled lot and start looking at the opportunities of what the space can be for the residents of La Verne.

Corenne Hall, sophomore psychology major, frequents various hiking trails in the local area, such as Marshall Canyon and the Claremont Loop.

“I think it’s a great idea to open up a new trail because you get a new location and scenery, and it helps get more people active and out enjoying the scenery,” she said.

The goats are a step in the right direction toward creating that space.

Sierra Dasher can be reached at sierra.dasher@laverne.edu.

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