National Park Services controls non-native plants with goats

Thursday, January 22, 2015
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The National Park Service is going to great lengths to restore the landscape at Point Reyes.

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. (KGO) -- The National Park Service is going to great lengths to restore the landscape at Point Reyes. The focus is on removing non-native animals and plants.

The Point Reyes National Seashore is 71,000 acres and even the park service admits that in places, non-native plants are taking over.

One of them is hemlock, which is poisonous to humans but not all creatures, hence the park services' unusual solution -- goats.

In a way, it fits the profile for a low-key government experiment -- an abandoned ranch, an electric fence. Then you read the warning, see the goats and realize this may not be as sinister as it seems.

Brandon Dach is anything but a government agent. He's more like a modern goat herder working a government contract, watching 200 goats slowly eat away the non-native plants.

"We've tried mowing, we've tried burning. We don't really want to try spraying. So this is an experiment," Point Reyes National Seashores' John Dell'Osso said.

When the goats arrived on Tuesday, the field was full of hemlock. Clearly, progress has already been made since then.

The plan is to move their fences and allow the animals to munch through 12 acres for two and a half weeks.

Two and a half weeks in one place might seem like a long time for most 23-year-olds, but Dach grew up with a country lifestyle and likes goat herding. He describes his accommodations as almost luxurious.

"Luxury as in most people that do it are typically just out camping in a tent with a campfire and cans of beans, typically," Dach said.

The Point Reyes National Seashore returns this land to nature. Dach gets to camp out, enjoy the views. And what can be better for goats than gazing hungrily at that next tasty field of hemlock?