Grazing damages burned forest

The Prefecture of Eastern Attica is offering financial aid to shepherds so that they stop letting their sheep and goats graze on land that was burned in last month’s forests fires, as it is hampering efforts to allow vegetation to grow back. It was revealed yesterday by Eastern Attica Prefect Nikos Kouris that 60,000 euros would be made available to shepherds and that the local authority is in talks with ATEbank and the fund created for the fire victims for more cash to be made available. Kouris thinks that the 60,000 euros will help shepherds to buy feed for their animals for about a month. It is estimated that there are about 18,500 sheep and goats that need to be fed. A total of some 500 livestock and dairy farmers own about 80,000 sheep and goats in Eastern Attica. A law passed in 1993 forbids the grazing of goats in Attica but it is frequently ignored. According to legislation, goats have to be kept in closed pens. It is also illegal for sheep or any other animals to graze on forestland that has been burned and which the government has declared will be reforested. However, residents of the areas northeast of Athens that were razed by last month’s wildfires have informed Kathimerini that shepherds have been allowing their animals to graze on burned land, where some vegetation has again begun to reappear. Giorgos Fragiadakis, the head of the Kapandriti forestry service, which is in charge of almost 10,000 of the 18,000 hectares that were left charred by the wildfires, said that regular patrols are being conducted in an effort to prevent animals from grazing on burned land. However, the president of the Union of Forestry Experts, Nikos Bokaris, told Kathimerini that in practice it is very difficult to stop illegal grazing. «Even if you find the animals on the burned land, you have trouble finding out who owns them,» he said. «And if you do find him and the case goes to court, the breeder puts forward numerous arguments, such as not having any money.»