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Goats to Get Shrubs That Get the City's Goat

Heavy underbrush and voracious weeds on Coeur d'Alene'sTubbs Hill have gotten the city's goat. So, Coeur d'Alene is getting goats. A herd of more than 250 goats will be turned loose Wednesday on the city's unusual 120-acre park on the lake shore with instructions to chomp on shrubs that can turn into fire kindling during the hot, dry summer months.

Fire specialists call the undergrowth "ladder fuel," because it can propel flames into tree tops, making it much tougher to suppress wildfires. The idea of letting goats do what they do naturally - eat virtually any kind of vegetation - is meant to keep potential fires small, and near the ground where they can be more easily snuffed out.

The goats are owned by a natural vegetation management company, one of a growing number of such enterprises in the northwest. One firm, called Healing Hooves of Edwall, Washington, just west of Cheney, points out that goats are agile, meaning they can operate on steep slopes that would defeat mechanical devices, they're omnivorous, eating just about any vegetation up to and including Canada thistle, they're chemical-free and cheaper than most chemicals.

The City of Coeur d'Alene already has a successful relationship with goats which are used for weed control around city water wells. The Tubbs Hill shrub attack force will work on one-acre tracts, hemmed in by low-voltage electric fences and a watchful shepherd dog, and then moved when they've chomped through most of the leaves, stems and seeds.

The project is funded by a federal FEMA grant obtained by the Coeur d'Alene fire department.

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