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Herd Nibbles Fire Break through Brentwood Hills

May 16, 2007

LOS ANGELES—Visitors to the elegant Getty Museum wouldn’t be surprised to find pastoral scenes of shepherds tending their grazing flocks.  But they’d expect them to be painted on canvas and hanging in gilt frames—not wandering the hillside overlooking the 405.

For the month of May, though, that’s where they’ll be—steadily munching on brush in the hills around the Getty Center.  The Getty has hired a small flock of goats, which come with a goatherd and a dog, to nibble away the flammable brush around its 110-acre hillside campus in Brentwood.

According to Yas Osako, grounds supervisor for the Getty Center, it’s just another example of the Getty’s efforts to do things the “green way.”  The Getty is LEED-certified, meeting national standards for environmentally sensitive facilities.  The Getty earns its certification by minimizing waste and emissions—including hiring goats to do brush clearance, instead of chopping it down with chain saws and trucking it away.  “The goats keep all the brush out of the waste stream,” Osako says, “and it keeps our guys off the steep slopes.  It’s a good way to do a difficult job.”

The goats are supervised by goatherd Hugh Bunten and his dog Steve, who live in a tent on the Getty grounds while the goats work.  Hugh is there to keep the goats “focused,” says his wife Sarah, and also to protect against coyotes (which they see a lot) and mountain lions (which they’ve never seen, but you never know).  The Buntens run Nanny and Billy Vegetative Management Company, an Oregon-based business with a group of goats that eat their way through California during fire season.  They’ve come to the Getty after gigs in Claremont and Norco this year.

The goats come at the perfect time for the Getty.  The Museum just opened a summer-long exhibition of life-sized animal portraits by Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and will be featuring animal-themed activities over the next few months.  With the goats, visitors can enjoy animals both inside and outside the galleries.

“The goats may be fun to watch, but they do important work,” says Osako, who is mindful of the recent fires in Griffith Park and Catalina, and Mayor Villaraigosa’s call for property owners to clear brush.  “We take our responsibility very seriously.” 

Fortunately, so do the goats.

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Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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