Thursday, September 19, 2019

Can Goats Save the Bay?

Probably not, but they can be used to eat some of the invasive plants, No kidding about it: Goats fight invasive species at Towson University
The goats, from Harmony Church Farm in Darlington, have been visiting campus yearly since 2014. They’re herded to The Glen Arboretum (commonly just called the Glen), a 10-acre patch of forest in the middle of Towson University’s campus, and left to eat. The goats are fans of invasive plant species like English ivy, Asian bittersweet and garlic mustard.

“The goats will clear this out, and then we have student volunteers who come out and pull the root stems,” said James Hull, a retired Towson University professor and director of the Glen.

Hull said about 200 student volunteers will turn out to the Glen and either pull out the roots of invasive plants or work to plant new trees in the forest. Ultimately, Hull wants the Glen to become a “living museum” that houses all 120 or so tree species that are native to Maryland. At last count, the forest is home to 108 species, Hull said.

Harmony Church Farm specializes in forest-clearing work, said Roni Cassilly, a former schoolteacher and owner of the farm. She has a total of 22 goats that she takes around to private landowners and the town of Bel Air to ingest invasive plants. Invasive species are often targeted for clearing because they can prevent native plants from growing and thriving.

“Invasive plants are taking over all of Maryland’s forest,” she said. “Lucky for us goats like the invasives.”

Towson University paid Harmony Church Farm for two days of goat grazing with grants from BGE and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. University officials could not immediately provide a dollar amount.

The goats, all of which Cassilly can identify by sight and name, typically eat off leaves, so human workers can go in behind and snip vines and pull roots. She first got goats to manage the forest that’s on her Harford County property.
If they still have to remove the roots and vines by hand, wouldn't it be easier to find the vines with the leaves still on them? This sounds like a bit of a boondoggle.

On some islands, the importation of goats has proven to be an ecological nightmare. Without predators to control them, wild goats will literally strip the vegetation to nothing. At least these goats are under control.

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