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Goats Clear Invasive Plant Species at NSA Annapolis

Posted on: June 19, 2013 08:00 EDT by James Johnson, NAVFAC Washington Public Affairs

Greenbury Point, a popular spot for joggers and hikers on the North Severn area of Naval Support Activity Annapolis, has a new community - a herd of hungry goats.

The goats are being used by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington in a pilot project to combat invasive plant species which have forced out native plants and animals.

“Our current strategy is to restore designated areas to a grass-land meadow by using goats to consume the invasive species,” says Kevin Montgomery, NAVFAC Washington environmental planning and conservation product line coordinator. “Goats are selective grazers; they prefer broad-leafed species over grasses and will eat all of the invasive plant species present in the designated areas.”

Broad-leafed non-native plants such as the Autumn Olive tree, Oriental Bittersweet and Multiflora Rose are a favorite target of the herd.

“Another benefit of the goats is that their digestive system is so strong that they break down the seeds of everything they are eating,” said Katharine Clark, natural resources manager. “So [the plants] can’t reseed themselves, for the most part.”

The herd of 60 goats is one of a three part approach, which also includes spraying chemicals and mechanical mowing.

Goats at Greenbury Point

“This is a pilot project that, if successful, can be utilized to reduce herbicide use and mowing actions,” said Montgomery. “Thereby reducing chemical run-off and air emissions, while significantly improving the habitat.”

They have been held inside one acre electric fence-lines since May, and are moved as needed to prevent overgrazing. By mid-June, the herd had grazed more than 12 acres. A target of 25 acres by the first week of August has been set. At that time, the goats will be removed and the area will be tilled and planted with native warm-season grass seeds suitable for ground nesting birds.

“At the halfway point, NAVFAC Washington Environmental is pleased with the progress the goats are making at Greenbury Point,” said Blake Waller, natural resource specialist. “This phase of the project has met our expectations and we will continue to use this as a learning experience for the entire region.”

Click here to see the goats in action.

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