County of Marin - News Releases - Grazing Goats

For Immediate Release
July 01, 2019

Goats to Graze near Fairfax for Wildfire Safety

FireSafe Marin to help with Sunnyside property’s vegetation management

San Rafael, CA – During the first week of July, a herd of goats will begin grazing on the former Sunnyside Nursery property outside of Fairfax to help reduce wildfire risk.

Grazing goatsGoat grazing is an efficient and cost-effective way of removing potential wildfire fuels.
The Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District partnered with Marin County Parks and FireSafe Marin to conduct the vegetation management operation in and around the undeveloped land at 3000 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The property, owned by the Flood Control District, will eventually become the flood diversion and storage basin site for the future San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction (SAFRR) project.

Goat grazing is an efficient and cost-effective way of removing potential wildfire fuel from a specific area, in this case the 7.7-acre Sunnyside property. It should take the goats about eight days to clear the potentially combustible vegetation from the Sunnyside property.

For the purpose of protecting native plant species, the goats will not be allowed to graze on the 1.7-acres of riparian habitat along the bank of Fairfax Creek. Flood Control District staff will handle the vegetation management for that area.

The natural process is a pollution-free and sustainable solution to vegetation management and defensible space creation, which are both efforts that traditionally would require extensive personnel and resource allocation. The goats browse around a partitioned zone, eating virtually all high-risk fire fuels such as shrubs, weeds, tall grasses, and non-native, invasive plants. Goat grazing is gentle on the land, not only reducing fuel for wildfire but restoring native grasslands and creating pastoral breaks between communities where firefighters can more easily control fires. Marin County Parks and Open Space successfully conducted several similar goat grazing efforts over the past couple of years.

The Flood Control District and FireSafe Marin have worked with Star Creek Land Stewards to orchestrate the grazing operation. While they use low-voltage electric fencing designed for small livestock to section off targeted land, the herders rely heavily on professionally trained herding dogs to keep the goats on track. The dogs also function as guards against predatory animals. Star Creek staff oversees the operation, continually monitoring the health and safety of the animals.

The SAFRR project, of which the future Sunnyside flood diversion and storage basin site is a critical component, is proceeding with some preliminary work. A one-mile stretch of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, which passes by the Sunnyside property, will be repaved this summer as part of the Marin County Department of Public Works’ (DPW) paving program. The Flood Control District and DPW coordinated planning efforts and incorporated drainage improvements along the roadway that will be required for the SAFRR project. The effort will save time and funds by avoiding the need to excavate the new pavement to install upgraded drainage at a later time.

The Flood Control District is working on the design of the flood diversion and storage basin at the Sunnyside site and has met with regulatory agencies for initial feedback. The permit applications are expected to be submitted to the agencies later this year. It is anticipated that construction on the Sunnyside property could begin as early as mid-2020.  


Tonya Redfield
Ross Valley Program Manager
Public Works

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 304
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2941
Email: Tonya Redfield
DPW Website