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Bard College Receives Three-Year Grant from NYSDEC to Hire Goats to Help Clear Invasive Plant Overgrowth from Historic Blithewood Manor Landscape

Darren O'Sullivan
 Image Credit: Daniel Smith. 2016
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has awarded Bard College a three-year Invasive Species Rapid Response and Control Grant that will support a plan to use goats to clear invasive plant overgrowth from a
1.5-acre hillside near the Blithewood Manor.
In order to maintain scenic views from the gardens and grounds of the estate, the hillside vistas must occasionally be cleared of vegetative overgrowth, a process that is complicated by steep slopes and irregular terrain, and, in recent years, the appearance of fast-growing invasive plant species that are displacing native meadow plants and need more frequent removal. The hillside has quickly become dominated by the invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and Common Reed (Phragmites australis) as well as Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica).  As a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel-emitting mowers, weedwackers, and chainsaws, Bard successfully experimented in summer 2016 with contracting a local herd of goats to graze and clear the northern vista. The hillside was enclosed with temporary fencing, and the herd remained for several weeks until all vegetation was stripped.
 “The goats do what they love best—eating brush, being outdoors, and standing on hills—requiring only daily fresh water, and some human assistance to topple the Ailanthus that have become too tall and thick for the goats to topple themselves,” says Bard Energy Manager Dan Smith, who comanages the project with Horticulture Supervisor and Director of the Bard Arboretum Amy Parrella. “The DEC grant will enable us to continue and expand this project and sustainably address invasive plant species and maintain these historic vistas,” added Parrella.
The $56,920 DEC grant will provide cost-share funding to host the goats for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 growing seasons, and to expand the area grazed by the goats to the southern vista, increasing the area of impact by 50 percent. The grant also includes funding for student stipends to assist with daily watering and monitoring of the herd. At the end of the third season, the vistas will be rehabilitated with stump grinding, grading, and seeding with native wildflower mix to restore the hillside to pre-invasive conditions.

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This event was last updated on 08-22-2017