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Goats rid NB Kitsap of invasive weeds

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080619-04
Release Date: 6/19/2008 2:47:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chantel M. Clayton, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Base (NB) Kitsap, is testing a different approach to ridding itself of weeds growing wildly around the base.

According to Terri Jones, a Navy forester for Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) environmental department, NB Kitsap is testing the effectiveness of using goats to rid the base of scotch broom, an invasive weed that is found throughout the area.

"The weed grows all over the base and takes away from the diversity of the land," said Jones. "When you have a continuous field of scotch broom, an invasive, non-native species, then we've lost the diversity of our native vegetation. They can't grow because the scotch broom has taken over."

Jones said there are many environmentally friendly and cost-effective benefits to using goats to get rid of the wide-spread vegetation. One of the biggest advantages, according to Jones, is how a goat breaks down the vegetation.

"Goats are called ruminants, and their stomach is called a rumen," said Jones. "Their stomach acid is higher than other ruminants, so when they eat the seeds it kills them, causing the weeds not to grow. They're eating a lot of the seed pods, and they don't pass the seeds in their manure."

Goats can also reach vegetation on steep hills a lot easier than people or machinery can.

"Safety is another benefit from the goats," said Jones. "If there is a confined area that is steep with lots of vegetation, people wouldn't want to go in there, and it would be very difficult to get in there with a weed-eater. They can go in there and get the area cleaned out really well so we can go in there to finish the job."

Jones also said the goats are helping rid the base of a potentially dangerous fire hazard.

"They (the goats) reduce the foliage so there is less to burn in case a fire were to break out," said Jones. "Scotch broom burns very black--a lot of black smoke comes from it. We don't want this kind of fire hazard around if we can handle it."

With the use of goats, Jones said the cost of disposing of the vegetation would be minimal, and prevent the risk of spreading.

"The biggest benefit I see is that because they ate half of the foliage, it doesn't have to be disposed of," said Jones. "Since there is very little left we don't mind leaving it on the ground."

Jones said that the process of getting rid of scotch broom is continuous, taking five to 10 years to complete.

"Treating scotch broom takes a long time to treat," said Jones. "The biggest thing is re-sprouts. We've done a great job of taking it on this year, but if not next year, then the year after that we would have to treat it again. With this you have to be persistent."

Over a 10-day period, the goats are being used in a ¾- acre area of land near NB Kitsap Bangor's main gate, which was once thickly covered with scotch broom. Jones hopes to grow native grass or trees where the scotch broom once grew.

"Right now we are doing what is called site preparation," said Jones. "We are preparing the site to enhance the growth of trees and other native grass afterwards. We want to start growing native species of vegetation, so we can get back native wildlife, such as birds."

According to Jones, the goats were first used on a smaller land area at NB Kitsap last fall with positive results. With the second trial underway and a third planned for the near future, Jones hopes NB Kitsap will use goats more often.

"I'm pretty impressed with it and think it's a worthy trial," said Jones. "I think there are places on base that would be appropriate for us to use goats. We're learning and becoming smarter on how to make that happen."

For more news from Naval Base Kitsap, visit www.navy.mil/local/kitsap/.

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