Goats, sheep do what they do best to help city

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I very much appreciate the letter to the editor (May 10, page A6, ?Grazing goats, sheep upset ravine?s balance?) authored by Jack Duran of Lincoln in regards to the sheep and goat grazing that occurred in Markham Ravine. However, some of his comments and conclusions require a response. It is important that we understand the primary objectives in the use of these animals in our urban open spaces is to: 1) reduce the amount of thatch build-up 2) control/manage exotic and native invasive weeds and 3) reduce the amount of fire fuels. Like Mr. Duran, Wildlife Heritage Foundation believes that contact with nature and wildlife is essential to our spiritual well being and should be preserved for the enjoyment of generations to come. However, Mr. Duran?s comments about the effects of the city of Lincoln grazing program are excessively exaggerated. The sheep and goats were not allowed to roam ?uncontrolled.? The sheepherder was using electric fencing, which only allows the animals to graze where they are supposed to. Although I am sure the goats and sheep did ?trample? some plants and grass, they more importantly consumed tons of grass and other palatable plants. As a result, they reduced the amount of exotic weeds and greatly reduced the danger of a catastrophic wildfire. As a professional biologist, I seriously doubt that the grazing by sheep and goats affected insect populations and certainly there were plenty of insects for the myriad species of insectivorous birds and small mammals. As to the ?devouring? of Chinese tallo, I say this is good, given the fact that Chinese tallo is considered an exotic invasive weed. Finally, Mr. Duran?s comments regarding the impact that grazing had on the vernal pools located in the Markham Ravine open space are entirely mistaken. Vernal pools, a unique springtime (vernal spring) habitat, with specially adapted plant and animals species, naturally dry up in the late spring and early summer. Perhaps it is time to have a community discussion about grazing on city-managed open spaces. I would be quite willing to participate. Patrick Shea Ph.D, executive director, Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Lincoln