These herds of goats wandering the countryside may seem like an innocuous part of the scenery, but they’re actually performing a very important job for the government.
As a means of preventing any more wildfires from ravaging the landscape, Portugal is now financing dozens of goat herds to munch away at the dry vegetation that helps wildfires to flourish.
Goats are an environmentally-friendly way of keeping greenery in check, and they’re stunningly good at it. Additionally, the government funding helps support goat herders and farmers in rural parts of the country.
When the Associated Press reported the news in June, they interviewed 61-year-old goatherd Daniel Fernandes. The Portuguese man described how his goat herd saved his family home in 2004 when wildfires crept in on the trees surrounding their residence.
Because the goats had already eaten and trampled the grass surrounding their home, however, the flames left them unharmed.
While the initiative may be new to Portugal, drought-susceptible regions of the US, such as San Francisco and Arizona, have been using goats as wildfire prevention for over a decade.
“The goat clearance scheme is one of the key reasons the Bay Area hasn’t had a recurrence of a catastrophic fire in decades,” says Tom Klatt, former manager of the Office of Emergency Preparedness at UC Berkeley and the author of UC Berkeley’s 2007 Fire Mitigation Program Annual Report.
The Portuguese government has taken additional measures for wildfire prevention. According to reports, the nation has added 1,000 more firefighters to their response force and hired several water-dumping planes and a few dozen response helicopters.
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