New Durango business is fighting fire with goats

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DURANGO, Colo. — One former wildland firefighter helped start a new business in Durango called Durangoats, which uses an unconventional weapon for reducing the risk of fire.

They unleash a herd of 12 goats on to properties with overgrown plants, weeds, and shrubs, for the goats to nibble away at. 

Johnathan Bartley, is one of the co-founders of Durangoats. He said he spent four years fighting fires in the Pacific North West.

“It doesn’t take long to recognize that we’re managing our forests wrong and while what we are doing right at the moment is necessary, because we’re saving houses, saving peoples livelihood, there is a greater solution,” he said.

When Bartley moved to Durango, he soon discovered, that solution is goats.

“I became friends with the local goat cheese farmers in town, Breen Mesa Farms and come February they told me they had 90% male goats,” he said.

Bartley then said they offered him some of those male goats and offered to mentor him.

With no farm animal experience, Bartley took on those unwanted goats, and raised them to do what they do best – munch.

“What they’re doing is clearing up what’s called ladder fuels… so if you eliminate the bottom-level fuel then what you have is a little bit more of a fire-safe environment – there is a gap between the creeping fire and the high canopy,” Bartley said.

The goats take a section of thick brush and thin it out.

“There is a lot more benefits to it rather than just coming here with chainsaw work, also it’s more economical and you know you’re doing what nature intended,” Bartley added.

Although Bartley misses being a firefighter, he said he’s still making a difference, just with different companions.

“I feel like I am still doing a part in it, like you don’t need to be out there one the front lines to be a part of wildland firefighting.”

Bartley added that goat grazing also helps water retention and helps eliminate invasive plant species.