After a decades-long absence, goats will once again be grazing in the Tonto National Forest.
Final approval has been granted to use the bearded herbivores to reduce fuel levels on 1,400 to 1,600 acres of forest land south and southeast of Payson.
The Payson Wildland Urban Interface Goat Project was approved last week by Ed Armenta, district ranger for the Payson Ranger District. The decision authorizes a permit to be issued allowing the use of goats to reduce stocking in chaparral and brush vegetation types, and the use of prescribed fire to augment and complete the treatment.
Goats, whose browsing mimics some of the effects of fire as it has occurred historically in chaparral-type vegetation, are more effective and less expensive than other options, according to John Brock, professor of ecological restoration at Arizona State University-East. While some methods of clearing brush cost $450 an acre, goats only cost $173 an acre.
"It's a lot more cost-effective than the (other) choices we have," Brock said. "It's more environmentally friendly, and it benefits the forests and the goats."
To minimize impacts to riparian areas and soils, the goats will be actively herded.
Camping and holding pens also will be monitored for soils impact and will be relocated as needed.
The ranger district will treat a total of 2,300 acres, with the additional 700-900 acres of that total treated by broadcast burning. The general project boundaries are Highway 87 to the east, Payson town limits to the north, a north-south line along Forest Road 441 and a west-east line located just north of Ox Bow Estates along forest roads 1545 and 441A.
The goat project is not subject to appeal, but copies of the decision notice and environmental assessment are available for review at the Payson Ranger Station, 1009 E. Highway 260. For additional information, contact Ed Paul at (928) 474-7979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.