The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota devised a creative solution to the overwhelming problem of invasive plants and it involves something that predates modern technology: goats.
Goats have had quite the cult following over the years. From screaming goat memes to goat yoga, the goat has become an internet sensation.
What many forget, however, is that goats have an amazing superpower and are almost impervious to anything they eat.
According to the Shakopee Valley News, a 25-acre piece of land near Deans Lake had been overcome with buckthorn and other invasive plants. When the SMSC noticed the growing problem, they knew that drastic measures were needed.
The nature of the plants as well as the steep terrain of the area ruled out human-powered efforts to clean up the land. That’s where the goats came in.
Over 100 goats were brought in to start controlling the out-of-control plants, according to the SMSC Facebook page.
“The goats are great. It’s kind of steep in here and it’s rough. Rather than have staff out spraying chemicals and working on steep slopes, we let the goats out here for several weeks at a time over a couple year period and they do the job for us,” Steve Albrecht, SMSC Director of Land and Natural Resources, told Shakopee Valley News.
Their hope is to fully restore the land over a couple years, and no plans are in place to develop it any further.
The goats will stay in the area for a month, return at the end of winter, and then again in the fall of 2019.
“It’ll take at least three times to get a good start on the vegetation and allow the grass vegetation to take over,” Albrecht said.
“The other unique thing about goats is they don’t spread the seeds from the stuff they eat,” he continued. “They’re pretty tolerant to anything they eat, and they’re good on sloped areas. They’re a nice fit for a site like this.”
Matt Stasica, the lead environmental scientist for SMSC, told Shakopee Valley News that the goats are not only helping get rid of unwanted vegetation, but are also helping plant new grass. SMSC is tossing grass seed and letting the goats push the seed farther into the ground with their hooves.
After the goats finish their third round of feasting, prescriptive burns will get rid of whatever is left.
Even though it seems counterintuitive to burn the area, Albrecht explained how beneficial it can actually be.
“It re-energizes the soil out here,” he said. “It’s part of the natural cycle. It’s amazing, people see us burn it and they think ‘Why would you do that?’ and then you come back a year or two later and you go, ‘Wow, that’s why you did that.'”
The SMSC is tracking the progress of the restoration process using drones. When it is all said and done, the area should look just like it did in the 1930s.
This is such a clever solution to a stubborn problem!
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