American Canyon Newell Open Space Preserve Grazing

Grazing with sheep to manage wildfire fuels in the Newell Open Space Preserve began on Friday, May 17th, 2024. Contract grazer, Cori Carlson of Napa Pasture Protein brought in 250 of her “girls,” or ewes which have already given birth this year. These are Dorper sheep, and they are accompanied by a sheep herder and a livestock guardian dog named Lola to keep them moving along and protect them from predators. Electric fencing is used to keep the sheep contained, and is moved as the sheep move from block to block. 

This portion of the preserve has not been grazed for quite some time, allowing flammable vegetation to grow unchecked and the natural ecosystem to begin a slow process of recovery. However, the Creekside Trail, with its high-water table, has a history of environmental degradation due to past erosion issues. Cattle, with their heavy trampling and foraging behaviors can be hard on riparian ecosystems, damaging soil structure and the delicate habitats surrounding the creek and adjacent roadways. 

In light of this, introducing sheep and goats as an alternative method of vegetation management presents an ideal solution. Unlike cows, sheep and goats have lighter body weights and different grazing patterns that are less likely to cause severe soil compaction and erosion. They are more selective feeders, which helps in maintaining a balance in the plant species composition. Their ability to graze on both sides of the Creekside Trail without causing excessive harm makes them particularly suited for this project. They have already been employed effectively in this area, demonstrating their potential to manage the vegetation while preserving the integrity of the habitat.

This project is an exciting collaboration: Napa Firewise, City of American Canyon and American Canyon Fire, Napa Regional Parks and Open Space District, and Napa County will be utilizing grazing for wildfire fuel reduction in multiple locations around American Canyon. This nature-based solution to fuel reduction also returns the nutrients to the soil.

More updates to come… stay tuned!