Travis AFB protects environment by using sheep

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexander Merchak
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – As the California sun dried up the green grass on and around Travis AFB, a low rumble could be felt as the natural resource program deployed a flock of 600 sheep May 31, 2023, around natural resource conservation areas. 

For the past two years, the natural resource program has collaborated with Kaos Sheep Outfit to supply the fluffy friends, to help reduce wildfire risk to the installation. 

“Sheep are better than lawn mowers,” said Christa Rolls, a wildlife biologist embedded with the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron and natural resource program official. “Mowing leaves the dead grass behind, which does not reduce the fire hazards. Sheep remove all standing vegetation and leave little residue behind.”

Travis AFB and the surrounding communities are no strangers to the effects of wildfires. In 2020, the base and local community of Solano County evacuated due to the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit Lightning Complex Fire. In 2017, during the Atlas Fire in northern California, Team Travis supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency by providing the staging areas and space necessary to assist civil authorities with fire relief efforts. 

According to Melvin Self, 60th CES assistant chief of training, the fire department can control or prevent grassland fire in two ways: education and removal of fuel. 

“Having the combination of sheep and cattle graze on the grass and brush is a great alternative mitigation of fuel for fire on base,” said Self. "It reduces the grade of the leftover vegetation. The stalks or brush remaining won't burn as easily as grass since they contain more moisture."
The natural grazing from the sheep in these areas also helps improve the habitat for threatened and endangered species that live here at Travis by eliminating the need for herbicides and machinery when it comes to weeds and thatches, say officials with the natural resource program.

 The natural resource program said that the grazing also helps manage valuable habitats for the four endangered species that they conserve including: 
- Contra Costa Goldfield
- Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp 
- Vernal Pool Tadpole Shrimp
- California Tiger Salamander 

Grazing removes plants that can harm growth of the vernal pool plants and reduces the height and amount of vegetation that allows for easier navigation for the lizards breeding grounds. 

From now and through the month of July, over 1,000 sheep will graze around three different locations at Travis AFB. 

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