SISKIYOU COUNTY, Calif. -- As fire season inches closer and closer, local ranchers say there's one prevention method that is not getting used enough. Wild horses that can eat fire fuels.
Naturalist Rancher Bill Simpson said it's a plan that will save lives without hurting taxpayers' wallets. He and his wife, Laura, have been taking care of and protecting a group of wild horses in the Cascade Siskiyou Mountains for nearly five years. Simpson said about 30 years ago, there was enough deer out there to keep the grass grazed down, but that is no longer the case.
"With as much grass and brush as we're seeing from the lack of deer, we're going to continue to have these outrageous fires," Simpson said.
He said that's where the natural grazing, wild horses come in.
"They're logical, they're practical and we happen to have 48,000 of them sitting in a corral right now at the U.S. BLM and Forest Service corrals," Simpson said.
He said they are able to help in more ways than one.
"They can go into a fragile ecosystem and when they eat the plants and grasses and flowers, most of the seeds are deposited back onto the land intact," Simpson said.
He said that's not the case for other grazers like cattle and sheep. He said getting them out in the forests is the answer, where they won't cost taxpayers anything while helping reduce fuels.
Britt Ivy Boice is advocating for the plan. She said it's already costing millions of dollars to keep them in corrals, so why not put them to work?
She believes it's another level of live-saving protection the region desperately needs.
"Preventing fires is a whole lot easier than suppressing fires once they take off, you're off to the races," Boice said.
Simpson said the number of wild horses left is extremely low.
"Today's there's 68,000. They will soon be a vanished species if we don't at least give them a place to live," Simpson said.
Now he's taking this plan to the BLM, Forest Service and legislators like Greg Walden, hoping they'll get on board.