This City Park Is Using Goats to Remove Invasive Plant Species

The goats, mostly females and their kids, eat buckthorn and other unwanted vegetation.

The goats, mostly females and their kids, eat buckthorn and other unwanted vegetation. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

It's the goats' second season at Theodore Wirth Regional Park, a project spearheaded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

In a city park in Minneapolis, an unusual group of contract workers spreads out for days a time, battling invasive plants, acre by acre.

They travel on foot from place to place, munching on unwanted vegetation at their own pace. As a precaution, the group—a herd of about 45 goats, on loan from a local company—are kept in place by fencing and are supervised at all times, 24 hours a day, by a contractor, mostly for their own safety.

This month marks the goats’ second season at Theodore Wirth Regional Park, in an invasive-species control project spearheaded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Commissioners had been debating the measure for a while and finally went live with it last year at two different parks, said Robin Smothers, a spokeswoman for the board.

“They eat primarily buckthorn, an invasive species, and other unwanted vegetation,” Smothers told Route Fifty. “We also use other methods to control invasive species, such as hand removal, mowing and herbicides if necessary. The goats complement that work and are used in areas that are harder to reach.”

Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. 

It’s not an entirely uncommon practice. Parks and nature conservancies in Wisconsin and Michigan have launched similar programs in recent years, and studies have found that deploying herbivores to destroy invasive species can be more effective than pesticides and don't come with the environmental drawbacks.

In Minneapolis, the goats—mainly females and their kids—are provided by Diversity Landworks, which contracts with the city for the service. The company has worked with other municipalities and government entities to help with land management, ranging from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to Minneapolis and the city of Redwing, Minnesota. Allowing goats to graze the land is a return to traditional land management that benefits both the plants and the animals, said Kyle Johnson, owner of Diversity Landworks.

"We got to the point where we realized the problem with all land management now is that we've essentially removed animals from the land and put them in confinement," Johnson told Route Fifty. "Plant species evolved to be grazed, and that whole dynamic has changed."

The goats prefer leafy shrubs (including buckthorn and honeysuckle, two of the main invasive species in the area), and like to eat greenery that grows above the ground, meaning there's little risk that they'll accidentally munch on native species during their work, Johnson said.

Unleashing the goats in urban areas is more expensive than in rural paddocks, due mostly to insurance and permitting costs as well as fencing requirements. Last year, Minneapolis paid about $34,000 to hire the goats to graze three sites at two parks. This year, for two sites at one park, the cost is $21,000. Each site and season takes a different amount of time, and the goats remain in the park until their task is finished. Last year, that took between six and 10 days, Smothers said.

At the end of the season, the park board will assess the efficiency and economic viability of the program, including how well native plants bounce back as compared to the invasive species, the Southwest Journal reported.

Park visitors are discouraged from interacting with the goats—they’re working, after all—but are free to observe the herd from afar.

“A temporary double fence will allow the public to view these hard-working animals from a safe distance,” Smothers said.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Local Districts across Great Lakes Manage Water Quality & Flooding Risks in Cost-effective Co-op
London, ON, Canada
Tracking Stormwater Pollutants from Lawns to Lakes Informs Capital Projects & Public Education
St Paul, MN, USA
San Antonio Water System reduces water usage nearly 50% through conservation measures
San Antonio, TX, USA

NEXT STORY: All 50 States Now Protect Public Breastfeeding

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.