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Prescribed grazing project to begin week of May 15 at Ennisbrook Open Space

By Montecito Fire
May 10, 2023 at 02:39 PM

05.10.2023 Sheep Grazing in 2020

Montecito Fire Department Photo - Sheep grazing at the Tea Gardens in Montecito in 2020

MONTECITO, CA – Montecito Fire Department’s Prevention Bureau will begin a prescribed grazing project during the week of May 15, 2023 at the Ennisbrook Open Space in Montecito. About 100 sheep will strategically graze more than 10 acres in the area for approximately two weeks, thinning vegetation and reducing the risk of wildfire. Cuyama Lamb, a local business specializing in sheep grazing for wildfire prevention, will bring in a herd of sheep to complete the project at Ennisbrook Open Space.

The use of sheep and other livestock for wildfire hazard mitigation is known as “prescribed herbivory.” As the animals graze, they target non-native invasive grasses and vegetation that become hazardous as it dries out during the warm, dry months of peak fire season. The sheep’s grazing will decrease wildfire risk for several years because the animals consume plant seeds and therefore slow the fuel load’s regrowth process.

“We last had sheep graze the District in 2020 so we are very excited to have the sheep here again to help us reduce hazardous fuel loading and make our community safer this wildfire season and for several years to come,” said Montecito Wildland Fire Specialist Nic Elmquist.

05.10.2023 Sheep Tea Gardens in 2020

Montecito Fire Department Photo - Sheep grazing at the Tea Gardens in Montecito in 2020

The Ennisbrook Open Space is one of four areas in the Montecito Fire Protection District that have been selected for prescribed herbivory in 2023 due to the high risk for severe impacts from potential wildfires. The three other identified areas are on private land within the District.

Community members are invited to see this wildfire prevention project in action. Cuyama Lamb shepherds and Montecito Fire’s Wildland Fire Specialists, Nic Elmquist and Maeve Juarez, will periodically be on site throughout the project to monitor progress and answer community questions. 

“We deeply appreciate the great partnerships with many local organizations and the Ennisbrook neighbors who are allowing us to carry out this wildfire mitigation project,” said Montecito Fire Chief David Neels. “We are also grateful to our Montecito Fire Protection District Board of Directors for prioritizing innovative fire prevention initiatives like this project at Ennisbrook.”

This project is in collaboration with Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council, the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County, Montecito Trails Foundation, UCSB, Spatial Informatics Group National Assets Laboratory (SIG-NAL) and the Santa Barbara Regional Wildfire Mitigation Program. Montecito Fire thanks the Ennisbrook Owners’ Association for being supportive participants of this critical risk reduction project in their neighborhood. Funding for the project is provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Fire Prevention Program as part of the California Climate Investments Program.


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