At the beginning of October, the community of Roxborough Park in Douglas County, Colo., began fire mitigation in the common property areas. To assist with the effort, they brought in Lani Malmberg and her 400 goats.
Dick Hart, chairman of the fire mitigation committee for the homeowner’s association-governed residential area, which includes about 1,000 homes, said the terrain is similar to the Waldo Canyon area in Colorado Springs. The goats from Malmberg’s Goat Green LLC provided a solution to mitigating the steep terrain.
“Much of our terrain is too steep for mechanical treatment, or it is very arduous work for chainsaws and that type of equipment,” Hart said. “The goats like the steep terrain. It gets us away from using chemicals or getting machines out there. Goats are much better received by the community.”
Malmberg said she got the idea to use goats for fire mitigation when she was finishing her graduate degree at Colorado State University. “I got a master’s degree in weed science and learned how well goats eat weeds,” she said. “I thought that somebody ought to start a business, where you put an animal with the right diet preference to eat things that people don’t want. I stumbled across some cashmere goats for sale, and I knew I would make my business work with the goats.”
Seventeen years later, Malmberg said she is working all day, every day with her goats. “I make sure the goats have food, water and shelter every day of the year,” she said. “We’re on contract every day of the year so whatever the contract says, that’s what I’m doing – just in different places, working with different people in a different setting and with different specifications.”
“The goats will eat about 3 percent of their body weight daily so the goats we have now consume well over a ton of biomass daily,” Hart said. “They are browsers rather than grazers. They love small bushes and scrub oak. The grass is really at the bottom of their food preference chain. They would rather be standing on their back legs eating brush.”
Malmberg said her goats are healthy because they are constantly being moved to places with fresh food available. “We move about every 30 days to a whole new place,” she said. “It’s my job to make sure we keep jobs all the time. We need to have a place to go.”
While the cost of travel can get relatively high, especially if she has to leave her current location to attend a meeting about a potential job, Malmberg said her overall cost of living is low. “I have a camper, and I live right beside the goats; and I just move it as we go,” she said. “I’m on the jobsite all the time.”
Once the goats have finished mitigating the contracted area, Malmberg said she has contracts with semi –trailer trucks that have four decks; and, using a portable ramp, she and her border collies herd the goats onto the truck. She and the herd then travel to the next location, and often return to the same places year after year to keep the weeds down, Malmberg said.
Her herd boasts a perfect record for keeping fires clear of the areas they’ve mitigated, she said.
Hart said the Roxborough Park community has also seen individual property owners ban together and share the cost of having the goats mitigate on their private property, which he didn’t expect. “It’s great because ember fires don’t really distinguish between property lines, so your neighbor’s lack of action can really have an impact on you,” he said. “Pricewise, this is much cheaper than manpower or mechanical methods.”
Aside from fire mitigation, Malmberg said her herd has been used to reclaim areas that have been disturbed by oil and gas operations. “They can be used to reseed and mitigate noxious weeds at well sites,” she said. “They mitigate and fertilize at the same time. They’re really doing about 12 things at a time.”
Chevron has been her biggest client on the reclamation side of her business, Malmberg said. “We’ve gotten stuff to grow in places that haven’t grown anything in 60 years, and we did it in one,” she said. “I call them eco-heroes because they’re magic in how they work the land.”
By late October or early November, Malmberg said she and her herd will be heading to Colorado Springs to work on the Bear Creek Gardens and the Mesa Road HOA.
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Twenty-five Sand Creek High School engineering program students were awarded a $9,900 grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their work on a water filtration system. They are the first team from Colorado to win the Lemolson-MIT InvenTeam grant. Fifteen grants were awarded to high schools across the country.
The team developed a bio-sand water filtration system that removes impurities from drinking water quickly and inexpensively. “The focus of the project is to enhance the design of bio-sand filters so that we can improve the affordability of these for people in developing nations,” said Grace Jiang, Sand Creek student team member.
The engineering design class has 25 juniors and seniors from the pre-engineering program at the school, said Todd Matia, class teacher. “Instead of individual or small team projects, they decided as a full group to do this,” Matia said. “This grant is so prestigious that once they heard about it they wanted the chance to compete.”
“I'm so proud of the students and Mr. Matia for this award,” said Tammy Harold, president of the D 49 school board. “They worked really hard and spent a ton of time on this. It's a great accomplishment.”
The team spent two months researching dozens of ideas before narrowing it down to the water filter. “They spent their advisory periods and lunches working on it in spring semester, as well as after school and several meetings during the summer,” Matia said. Jiang said the time and effort was worth it. “I got involved because it presented the chance to get involved, hands-on, in a project that's big and would affect more than ourselves. It was exciting to have that opportunity in high school,” Jiang said.
The students will use the grant money to improve and test the filter, Matia said. “We're working with local businesses, but it's going to cost money every time we have the water tested,” he said. The entire team, Matia and several chaperones hope to go to Cambridge, Mass., in June for the EurekaFest program. The event honors the winners of the grant from across the country and allows the teams to present their final designs.
Completing the project and paying for the team to go to MIT for EurkeaFest will cost about $30,000. “We really want to involve all of the Colorado Springs region and all of Colorado since we're the first-ever team to win from the state. It's something Colorado and Colorado Springs should be really proud of,” Matia said.
The team hopes the filter will be used by governments and nonprofit organizations to help provide safe drinking water to impoverished communities. “Once we test and finish the prototypes, we'll be working with a nonprofit organization or the military to see who can help us distribute the plans to those communities,” Jiang said. “The idea is to make it easy for the communities to build it themselves.”
The team has a Facebook page so the community can follow the project. It can be found on Facebook by searching for “Rocky Waters Filtration.”