Douglas County brings chew crew to Lucius Woods
Superior Telegram Douglas County sent a new contender into the battle against invasive species this week. A herd of goats face off against thickets of buckthorn and exotic honeysuckle in Lucius Woods Park in Solon Springs. It's a chance for a new...
Douglas County sent a new contender into the battle against invasive species this week.
A herd of goats face off against thickets of buckthorn and exotic honeysuckle in Lucius Woods Park in Solon Springs. It’s a chance for a new local business, Giddy Up and Go Goats, to sink its teeth into a public job after months of helping clear land for neighbors.
"We’re really excited," said Rebecca Loken, who runs Giddy Up and Go Goats with partner Mike Mattson. "We’ve gotten a lot of positive community feedback; everybody’s really happy for us."
The goats offer a way to control invasive plants without resorting to herbicides. The animals thrive on broad-leafed plants like knotweed and buckthorn, preferring them to grass and other vegetation. The chew crew has got their work cut out for them, according to Mark Liebaert, chairman of the Douglas County Forest, Parks and Recreation Committee. About half the 40-acre parcel the park sits on has been overrun with invasive plants.
"We were kind of at a loss for what to do," Liebaert said. "I’ve never seen buckthorn growing like that."
Currently, the Douglas County Forestry Department organizes two days a year where volunteers cut down buckthorn in the infected area by hand, but it’s a losing battle. Cut down a buckthorn plant and four or five more stalks can spring up at the site, like a mythical hydra.
"You could send a crew of 20 down there every day of the year and not make headway," said Forestry Director Jon Harris. The only cost-effective option left to the department, he said, appeared to be herbicides. That was until Loken and Mattson of Minnesuing Acres Farm pitched their new business to the committee in June.
"When this was proposed to us, I think it had support from everybody on the committee," Liebaert said, but members didn’t bite immediately. Instead, they asked for more information. Loken provided it with approval from Solon Springs to bring livestock into the village at the Aug. 31 meeting. Committee members gave her the go-ahead to cart her living lawnmowers to Lucius Woods and target a 1.25-acre section of infested woodland.
"We’re really doing an experiment down there," Liebaert said. "If it works, great; it will be a model we can use other places."
If it doesn’t go well, it’s not a big financial setback for the county. The first treatment, which is set to begin today and run for two to three weeks, will cost $1,000. Loken estimates it will take two more treatments to mow the buckthorn and honeysuckle down to size. Those applications would start up again in the spring and cost a combined $800. The committee hasn’t approved the additional treatments, Liebaert said. They’re waiting to see how the goats fare during their trial run.
About 27 goats will be contained within a netlike electric fence during the job, which is located along the park trail. While visitors can walk up to watch the four-footed workforce in action, they are asked to be cautious.
"We invite people to ask questions, however we hope the public respects the goats while they are working and leave them and the fence alone while they are," Loken said.
It should be a good experiment and good for education, Liebaert said.
Loken will bring a few goats to downtown Solon Springs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday during the seventh annual Fall Equinox Festival. Members of the public can pet the goats and learn more about their role in controlling invasive plants. The event features live music, children’s games, local crafters and artisans as well as food vendors.
More information about Giddy Up and Go Goats can also be found online at lakeminnesuingfarm.org, by calling 715-292-4777 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .