Grazing Cows at Sunol



Grazing animals were a part of the ecosystem of this region for many tens of thousands of years. The native flora of the East Bay evolved under the influence of prehistoric herbivores, such as mammoths, ground sloths, horses, and camels and historic grazers, such as musk ox, bison, deer, elk, and antelope as well as other common disturbances such as wildfire and drought. 

Over the past 200 years, California grasslands have largely become dominated by invasive, nonnative, annual grasses. It is suggested that as little as 2% of our state’s original grasslands remain.  The district offers many areas to see native grassland communities that support diverse and often rare plant species that require vegetation management to be sustainable. One can see Serpentine prairie in Redwood Regional Park, coastal prairie grasslands at Point Pinole, and valley grasslands at Black Diamond Mines, Brushy Peak, Briones, Diablo Foothills, Pleasanton Ridge, Sunol, Ohlone and more. Each has unique combinations of native grasses and forbs or wildflowers that survive thanks to invasive plant management. Perennial native grasses have substantial root systems that help stabilize soils, sequester carbon, and improve water infiltration. Native wildflowers provide habitat and nutrition for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and birds.

Today, visitors to the Regional Parks may encounter cattle, sheep or goats grazing on the grasslands. Please observe these safety tips when hiking near them. The District has over 50 years of experience using grazing as a resource management tool. Our program is operated with a license system based on current accepted principles of range management.

Cattle, sheep, and goat grazing are used as a vegetation management tool to reduce fire fuels and maintain or improve habitat conditions for resident plants and wildlife. Current research  indicates that well-managed, moderately grazed areas generally display a greater diversity and density  of native plant and animal life.

Approximately 65% of District land is grazed by 6,000 cattle, 1,500 sheep, and 1,600 goats, which are spread out over about half of the District's parks at any given time. Most of the cattle and sheep grazing takes place during the winter and early spring. Goats are typically used for fire fuel load reduction projects between March and August.”

Goat Grazing Activities

Visitors to the East Bay Regional Parks may encounter cattle, sheep or goats grazing on the grasslands. The District uses grazing animals as a practical and economic resource management tool. Grazing helps reduce fire hazards by controlling the amount and distribution of grasses and other potential fuel. Around urban settings, goats are often used in conjunction with human work crews and prescribed burns to create fuel breaks – a proactive effort to manage future wildfires.

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