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RA to Discuss Goats For Invasive Plant Removal

by Karen Goff September 5, 2014 at 9:08 pm 28 Comments

Eco-Goats goats get to work/Credit: Eco-GoatsThe Reston Association Board of Directors will consider a proposal to look at using goats to manage invasive plant species in Reston.

Hunters Woods/Dogwood Director Lucinda Shannon approached RA CEO Cate Fulkerson and RA Environmental Resources Manager Claudia Thompson-Deahl earlier this summer, pointing out that Tree Pittsburgh, an environmental nonprofit, recently used goats from Eco-Goats, a company in Maryland, to restore vegetation on a hill in the city.

Goats were also used last year to manage invasive plants at Congressional Cemetery in D.C.

Here is how it works: Eco-Goats trucks in several dozen goats to the site. A temporary fence is installed, and goats graze for a few days on the offending plants. Meanwhile, goat droppings make great fertilizer for the return of the native plants, Eco-Goats says.

Goats are able to eat plants that are poisonous to other animals and their mouth structure destroys the seeds of the invasives.

Invasive plants such as Purple Loosestrife, Winged Burning Bush and English Ivy, among others — are an issue on both Reston Association and privately owned land in Reston. They damage the native plants and affect wildlife.

The RA board will talk about the goat idea at its planning meeting this week.

Meanwhile, there is an item in the Reston deed that prohibits livestock, but the board and the Design Review Board may be able to get around it with the idea that the goats will be temporary.

Photo: Eco-Goats goats get to work/Credit: Eco-Goats

  • BillyG

    Seriously? This is a joke right?!

    • Karen Goff


    • BBurns

      It’s real – many articles about it on line. Google it.

  • LOL

    So let me get this straight…we’re going to bring in goats to eat the plants, and we’re going to kill the deer because they eat the plants. OK THEN.

    • pc

      …and, if you read the RA supporting docs on the hunting request for Sourwood lane, the homeowners objected to the deer eating their english ivy! Of course, most of it has come back; and, it was one of the coldest winters on record so many animals were eating anything and everything.

      • BBurns

        If it’s true that the homeowners who want to kill the deer object to English ivy being eaten, someone needs to explain to them how invasive and destructive English ivy is – to native plants that provide food/habitat for wildlife (birds, beneficial insects, etc.) and how Reston volunteers do their best to remove it. It’s hard to believe that that would be the reason for deer hunting.

        • pc

          They said the ivy was planted by the builder to control erosion on their slopes. If you travel down Sourwood Lane, you will see that some homeowners have replaced ivy with deer tolerant non invasive ground cover. Problem solved.

          • Lisa B

            Thank you for pointing out this helpful alternative, something we have been undertaking in our steeply sloped yard.

    • Jthomas

      At least we’re not going to shoot them with bow and arrows after they clean up the vegetation. -:)

  • BillyG

    How do the goats know the good plants from the bad plants?

  • Mutha Nachure

    Is RA assessing the damage the goats will cause to local gardens, including the several community vegetable gardens around Reston?? (From a goat’s perspective, really tasty fresh vegetables!)

    ….and how will RA control the goats once they multiply????

    Shoot them like they are shooting deer?

    …unintended consequences will always get you.

    • Karen Goff

      It says in the story – Eco-Goats method is goats temporarily trucked in and kept behind a fence. No multiplying or running free.

  • Greg

    People, please read the story. The goats are fenced in. The company controls what the goats are eating. There’s no multiplying. Sheesh. Reading is fundamental.

    • Guest

      How do you fence in goats in Reston’s natural areas which cover over 1,000 acres throughout the community.

      Or do you intend to keep Restonians’ out???

      Thinking is more fundamental than reading.

      • SmartOne

        It is done one small, targeted area at a time. Nobody is proposing a herd of wild running free eating your flowers. Seriously?

      • Lisa B

        The goats are located in small, contained areas at any given time and are overseen by their caretakers. It is actually a quite gentle solution.

  • RestonRealist

    Goats are a good tool for some situations–Kudzu or Ivy in trees; they are not effective where you have good plants and “bad” plants mixed together. There result is strictly cosmetic since they don’t disturb the root system of the weeds. Don’t you guys, (RA Board) have better things to do – seems like 5 minutes of research would tell you if this is a good idea or not.

  • thebratwurstking

    so is RA getting paid for feeding the goats? or will it be $1000s of our membership fees going for this?

    • BillyGGruff

      Actually– RA has to PAY to have the goats brought in– foolishness.

      • thebratwurstking

        I figured that unfortunately. Any idea how much?

  • Rational Reston

    If the goat thing works out, can we nominate the goats for the RA or RCC boards?

    • Guest

      ….hmmmmm…so they can eat away at our wallets and purses?

      • Rational Reston

        Well, it’s probably a more efficient use of our money.

  • Bo-Peep

    Can they eat Japanese Stiltgrass?!

    • Lisa B


  • Lisa B

    Despite the immediate negative reaction one might have before learning about this method , this is actually a wonderful idea. It has been wonderful to see native plants that were replanted after the stream restoration regaining control of their environment; it has been disheartening to see invasive plants just across the path–that were not a part of the restoration–continue to gain ground and overtake the native plants. There are already areas where the invasive plants have jumped over the path to the redone side. As helpful as Weed Warrior efforts have been, the invasive plants come back because human hands do not have the time to clean out large areas, only small spots. My household’s efforts to keep ivy from encroaching on our yard are frustrated again and again by the uncontrolled plants on RA property abutting our plot. We have first-hand knowledge of situations where this method has been successful. Although I did not know the benefit of the goat droppings, this seems like a healthy, organic way to return nutrients to our eroding soils, especially in our stream valleys–our forests can become healthier as native plants can once again thrive.

    • BillyGGruff

      Actually the goats impact the cosmetics but do nothing to remove the roots of the weeds, they are not discerning eaters removing the natives along with the invasive. It seems like a charming idea but really is this how the RA Board should be spending their time?

  • Lisa B

    Karen, do you know the day and time RA is discussing this proposal this week?


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