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Erie County Parks Department deploys goats to combat invasive plants

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Tue, Jun 4th 2019 10:25 am
A herd of six goats is busily munching on invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed and poison ivy, at Erie County's Como Lake park as part of a pilot project to assess the goats' effectiveness in removing invasive species and the potential for performing similar services at other Erie County parks. The goats will be at Como Lake Park for the month of June.
A herd of six goats is busily munching on invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed and poison ivy, at Erie County's Como Lake park as part of a pilot project to assess the goats' effectiveness in removing invasive species and the potential for performing similar services at other Erie County parks. The goats will be at Como Lake Park for the month of June.

Pilot program with Let’s Goat Buffalo unveiled at Como Lake Park

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Erie County Legislator John Bruso (8th District), Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Daniel J. Rizzo, and Jen Zeitler, owner of Let’s Goat Buffalo, to unveil a pilot project now underway in the county’s Como Lake Park.

A herd of goats owned by Let’s Goat Buffalo will be tasked with clearing one acre of invasive plant growth from Como Lake Park in anticipation of them performing similar services at other county parks in the future.

The county executive’s office said, “Goats are able to reach places that humans cannot, and using them to eat invasive plants and overgrown brush eliminates the need for chemicals, protects sensitive ecological areas, neutralizes plant seeds, and adds fertilizer to soils.”

“Goatscaping has shown to be an effective way to control invasive plants elsewhere, and our parks system is a natural place to try this pilot project in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “There are many benefits to this all-natural, environmentally friendly way of controlling unwanted vegetation, and I thank our Parks Department for working with Let’s Goat Buffalo to test this here.”

Goatscaping is an alternative, green approach to managing landscapes and is a popular method with business owners, parks and other community and government plant control efforts in cities such as Pittsburgh, Boston and Chicago. The goatscaping season runs approximately from the end of April through early November and is weather-dependent. One herd of goats can remove approximately 10 acres of invasive plant growth in a season.

“Most people aren’t aware of the environmental damage caused by everyday things like lawnmowers and trimmers, or the use of chemicals like Round-up,” Zeitler said. “These methods add to the destruction of native bees, birds and other wildlife, put our families at risk, and contaminate our water table. Using goats to eat unwanted plant growth is a natural solution that is extremely successful in cities across the country, and we are excited to do this in Buffalo.”

Bruso said, “Goats are an economical way to control invasive plants and are good for the environment in many ways, as well. This pilot project is another example of how we are working to improve our parks and leave them in a better, cleaner and healthier condition.”

Rizzo said, “Invasive plants are always a concern for the parks, as they are tough to remove and grow back fast. Using goats to eradicate them will have much better results, will protect native trees and the habitat they provide, and will help us to care for our parks in a safe, non-chemical way.”

Zeitler added, “Goats are well known for their appetites, but the coolest thing is that, because of their unique digestive systems, they sterilize the seeds of the plants they are eating. That makes them more effective long-term than trimming or cutting problem plants. Goats also love poison ivy, which is a big problem for people and businesses. We can bring in a team of goats to eat invasive plants for a lower cost than man-power and equipment – and it’s all natural.”

For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry visit http://www2.erie.gov/parks/; or on Let’s Goat Buffalo, visit http://www.goatbuffalo.com/.

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