As fire danger looms in just about all points Bay Area, BART has deployed a special task force to manage the fuel around its properties. But this crew doesn't use tools.
The transit agency is using hundreds of goats to graze on properties around its stations and tracks, creating fire breaks amid the heavy brush in some of those areas.
The four-legged grazers not only help reduce the chance of fires sparking, but they also are friendly to the environment as their appetites for vegetation allow BART to significantly cut back on the use of equipment such as gas powered weed whackers, mowers and leaf blowers.
BART grounds worker Josh Soltero says it's "the smartest way for us to deal with the vegetation in these areas."
The goats are contracted from Living Systems Land Management, a herding business based in Coalinga owned and operated by Michael and Jan Canady.
"We put the goats in a small area and do what we call a mob graze," Jan Canady said in a BART news release. "With a power weed eater, you're just cutting it down, but you have to worry about erosion, because the root is still there. The goats, they're constantly eating wherever they're needed, everything, until you move them somewhere else."
Goats are intelligent, playful creatures, Canady added, who instinctively know which plants they need to eat. At each location, a goat herder contracted by the Canadys stays with the goats 24/7 to move them along to their next stop.
BART says some of its properties are in zones with overgrown vegetation prone to brush fires, and the goats are the agency's way of proactively managing that overgrowth.
BART provides water for the goats, a herd of which can drink 300-plus gallons a day and can clear well over an acre of vegetation a day, according to Glen Eddy, BART's assistant superintendent of Ways and Facilities. He said the contract usually runs in May-June and September-October, depending on conditions, and the goats graze about 35 acres out of more than 100 total.