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Bay Area Rapid Transit has returned 450 grazing goats to transit agency property as a form of vegetation management and fire danger reduction.
The goats are grazing on hillsides in Walnut Creek and Hayward, California. They eat dry brush and grass in place of using fossil-fuel-reliant lawn mowers, which increase the risk of sparking fire, BART officials said in a blog post. Goats are also quiet, reducing noise disruptions compared to using mowing equipment.
Worker injuries are also of concern to the transit agency because many of the slopes and hillsides near the tracks are too steep to be safely cut by hand or operated on using equipment. Poison oak is also an issue for humans, but for goats, it's just another food source.
"Most people don’t realize just how much land and properties the district owns and maintains," said Glen Eddy, BART's assistant superintendent of way and facilities, ground maintenance. "Most of our rights-of-way consist of wide expanses of property to allow for a safety buffer and access to the tracks as need. Almost all are covered by wild grasses and vegetation that requires maintenance year-round."
Some areas of BART property are considered "environmentally fragile" and require less-invasive treatment, BART officials said.
The goats are contracted by the Coalinga-based business Living Systems Land Management, which owns about 4,000 goats. The goats are a cross between Spanish and Boer goats and work faster than any human, clearing about an acre each day.
BART has used goats to mow its properties for about five years, grazing anywhere from 5 to 25 acres at each location.