Goats are known to eat just about anything, but it didn't dawn on Vince Thomas until recently that the menu might include Christmas trees. "They'll eat the pine needles and leave the skeleton of the tree," says Thomas, a longtime volunteer firefighter who has come up with a new use for his family-owned goat herding business, "Goat Grazers." "It basically looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas with a scrawny tree that has nothing but the branches," he tells the Reno Gazette-Journal. Thomas is launching a new program with the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District on Friday to use his 40 goats to help recycle Christmas trees. He says he got tired of watching people discard the trees in landfills or dump them on public property, where they became a fire danger.
"A lot of people dump it out on the desert and that's really a problem because people think it's a natural thing and it will decompose," says J Merriman, communications manager for Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. "But because we're out in the desert, they don't decompose, it will just get drier and drier and it really becomes a serious fire hazard." Thomas notes, "I did a lot of research ... and it's OK for the goats. With cattle and some of the other animals, it can cause miscarriages. But for goats, it's a natural dewormer, and pine is very high in vitamin C, so it's healthy for them." Thomas says his goats have been used in the past to help graze in areas with fire-prone weeds along the Sierra's eastern front. "The goats are great employees, they love their job and they don't complain," he says.