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Irvine Ranch Conservancy Experiment with Goats to Help Restore Natural Habitat in Bommer Canyon

​The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to a variety of natural habitats and native plant species. These habitats can be disrupted by invasive plants and weeds that are harmful to the native flora of the lands. Restoring native habitat is an important goal of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, but before native plants can be re-introduced to a specific area, non-native plants must be removed.
 
Irvine Ranch Conservancy has partnered with the City of Irvine to implement a multi-year habitat restoration project in Bommer Canyon. The process will begin with a little help from nature’s mowers – goats! Unlike other habitat restoration methods, this experimental activity utilizes a controlled method of livestock grazing to remove non-native plants, weeds, and thatch that have degraded the natural habitat over time. Goats can access certain areas mowers can’t such as steep slopes or rocky areas and are being used as an experiment to see how effective they can be in other situations. With their seemingly endless appetites, goats graze down to the soil, which will allow Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff to plant native seeds and plants at the cleared site and restore the area to its native habitat. The end goal of the project is to return Bommer Canyon to a healthy, lush mix of native grasslands and coastal sage scrub – a rare habitat found only in Southern California.
The herd of goats is overseen by human caretakers and a pair of dogs trained to protect them from predators. Kept in a portable, solar-powered electric fence, the goats will graze in a specific area for a period of time before moving on to a new area. As the goats graze, they are helping to remove non-native vegetation, grasses, and thatch that could also be potential fire dangers, while naturally fertilizing the land and adding nutrients to the soil.
 
The use of goats as a tool to restore the natural habitat of Bommer Canyon is experimental, and goat grazing is applicable only for specific site preparation situations. This project is intended to enhance the vibrant nature and experience of those using the trails in the Canyon. Although the goats might be visible to visitors, they are not meant for public attraction and should be admired from afar.
 
For more information on how to help with restoration efforts across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks or to become an Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteer, visit LetsGoOutside.org.