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Goats Versus Invasive Species

Winning the battle for a better park and migratory birds

By: | November 6, 2018 5:53 pm

When you look around the world, new energy technology is offering us amazing options:

• New software technology is helping wind turbines run more efficiently.
• Electric cars are going further on a charge, making them promising as a driving option.
• Advanced materials are making solar roofs look just like traditional shingles.

Technology keeps becoming more sophisticated and enhancing the way we create energy and manage our surroundings. Yet, good old fashioned Mother Nature has ways of providing surprisingly simple solutions amidst our progressing techno-world. A sterling example of this is proving itself out with invasive species along the bluffs of the St. Croix River where Minnesota and Wisconsin meet.

Goats offer a low-tech advantage over invasive species.

Goats have been used as lawn mowers around huge fuel tanks at refineries and storage facilities for flammable liquids. No machines, no sparks. Goats just nibble the grass, a perfectly natural solution.

Goats act as environmentally friendly eradicators of problematic plants. And their favorite edibles are some of our worst invasive species of plant life, namely the dreaded Buckthorn. The same kind of logic is being applied to Prospect Park overlooking the St. Croix River in the city of Hudson, Wisconsin.

invasive species

A grant from Xcel Energy for 28 hungry goats

To bring the park back to native status, goats were leased from The Munch Bunch. They can stomach just about anything, including noxious invasive species weeds … and lots of them.

“Buckthorn is their number one favorite,” said Allysse Sorenson, who along with her husband Dan manages a herd of 115 goats. A solar-powered fence is used to cordon off their designated all-you-can-eat plant buffet. A 7.5 acre-area requires about 35 days to complete/consume. The goats are indifferent to steep terrain and help avoid using herbicides. And they help control the spread of invasive species such as buckthorn, garlic mustard, and others. These can overwhelm areas by crowding out native plants which in turn can alter habitat for birds and other wildlife.

invasive speciesPhoto courtesy of The Munch Bunch

Making a better stop for 45 migratory bird species

Also driving this effort at Prospect Park is Tropical Wings, an organization dedicated to the welfare of migratory birds shared between the Upper Midwest and Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Hudson lay along the St. Croix River and was recently designated a “Bird City” – one of about 100 in Wisconsin.

As recently retired Park Director Tom Zeuli points out, clearing the buckthorn makes for a better stop and layover for migratory birds. It also opens up more of the park for residents and visitors to enjoy.

“This has been a great opportunity to join forces with Tropical Wings and Xcel Energy to make a whole new part of the park accessible from downtown through our walking trails,” Zeuli said. “We have a great park here, and we’re making it even better.”

Learn more about Xcel Energy’s wildlife and habitat protection efforts here.



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