Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Goats: the natural weed whackers

Plan to re-vegetate Clackamas River basin begins with removing invasive plant species
by:  These goats chomp their way through invasive plant species on a property near Eagle Creek.

With the goal of re-vegetating 30 stream miles along the Clackamas River, the Clackamas River Basin Council is taking a unique approach in using goats to eliminate invasive plant species.

The 'Shade our Streams' project is a multi-year community tree-planting project aimed at improving water quality within the Clackamas River Basin. The project will plant more than 300,000 native trees over 30 stream miles at no cost to owners.

Before planting, however, the river council must eliminate invasive species such as Himalayan Blackberry and English Ivy.

To kick off the project, the council has set aside a demonstration site in Eagle Creek that will allow landowners to see what the process will look like. The site will feature a team of 15-20 goats who will graze in specified areas to eliminate the unwanted weeds.

'Goats will eat the green vegetation all the way down,' project manager Jenny Bieger said, 'and they were raised to target weeds because they can chomp right through thorns.'

This is the first time that the council has employed the use of goats, but Bieger said the group's search for ways to eliminate the use of herbicides has brought them here. 'This is a very environmentally friendly, 'organic' restoration, and although it isn't the most cost-effective method, we're looking into using different techniques for different sites,' she said.

The project focuses on what is called the riparian area, or the streamside area that is within 50 feet of the stream.

Once the invasive species are removed, the project will call for native plants to be replanted, which will help to lower the stream's water temperature.

By lowering the temperature, the council hopes to reduce the amount of bacteria in the water and to help the salmon that live in the Clackamas River survive.

'The goal to re-vegetate will help endangered and threatened species who love cooler water,' Bieger said, 'and the large wood debris that the new trees generate will help create refuge and hiding spots for young fish to get out of the fast-moving channel.'

As a result, the project is targeting areas that lack sufficient shade, whether it is public or private land. In addition to the large trees that produce shade, the project will also include some smaller plants to help eliminate and out-compete weeds.

Another positive aspect of this project is how local the council is staying in finding what they need. The goats are being rented from Goat Rental NW in Damascus, and the plants are all being bought from local nurseries.

'I love to see how small communities get engaged and excited, so it is great to work in small areas because sometimes in urban areas it is hard to make an impact,' Bieger said.

For more information, visit the CRBC website at clackamasriver.org.