The following entry and pictures were sent to us by our friends at the Coastside Land Trust, a 1% for the Planet recipient. We hope you take a minute to read it, and learn about the importance of land stewardship!
What do you do when you have a large conservation easement that has been overgrown with thistle, grasses and other plants and you want to “mow” it in an environmentally sensitive way? Who are you going to call? “Goats-R-Us” of course!
The community of Half Moon Bay is located on “The Peninsula” in San Mateo County, California. It is a 30 minute drive from San Francisco International Airport and Silicon Valley, and just a hair longer from San Francisco. But this community is a world away from these urbanized areas. It is defined by dramatic coastal bluffs, working farmlands and stunning open space. One of our nonprofit partners, the Coastside Land Trust (“CLT”) is dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing this beautiful open space environment.
One of the parcels for which CLT has a conservation easement, is the right of way for the abandoned Ocean Shore Railroad, which ceased operation in 1921. This beautiful area parallels the western-most street in the southern portion of Half Moon Bay and is a gateway to the casual trails of the coastal bluffs. It is vegetated in grasses, thistle, native wildflowers and other native plants. In the late summer the vegetation browns and requires mowing, but using a tractor-pulled mower would kick-up lots of dust and debris, spread the seeds of non-native species and thistle and possibly harm some of the native plants.
So CLT turned to Goats R Us. This family-owned company contracts its specially bred and trained goats throughout Northern California for grazing. The goats are trained to eat just about everything on the ground: Bristly Ox-tongue, thistle, and native and non-native grasses, Monterey Pines and willow. A shepherd erects a portable electric fence around the site, the goats are hauled-in and he and his two dogs watch the herd while the goats eat to their heart’s content. When they finish grazing a section, the shepherd moves the fence and the dogs herd them along.
CLT leveraged the goats into an opportunity to involve and educate the community in good stewardship practices. Flyers were distributed to residents in the immediate area alerting them to the impending arrival of the goats. Volunteers and staff went door-to-door seeking donations of water for the goats. (Hoses had to be run from the houses to the right of way, and water is expensive on the coast). A donor stepped-up to defray much of the cost of the herd. CLT created an “adopt a goat” program to raise money to bring the goats back next year: for a $10 donation a person can adopt a goat for 2013. One of its volunteers photographed the goats in action and created note cards available for purchase from CLT. All of these donations and proceeds will go into a special “2013 Goat Fund.”
The program was a great success. Over 200 goats were on the site for about 10 days; their fenced area was moved almost daily. They became a local “hit”, and many residents came to the site with their families to watch the goats in action. The site was eaten clean, with the exception of some of the thistle stems and larger shrubs. The seed pods on the thistle stems will be clipped by hand and bagged by CLT volunteers in order to prevent seed spreading. And so far CLT has 30 goats sponsored for next year – far short of its goal, but a good start!
Some people think of land trusts as merely land owners but CLT makes an extra effort to be a good steward of the lands it owns and manages. Through its volunteers and generous donations, both large and small, CLT has been able to improve and enhance the beautiful open space areas of the Half Moon Bay community. 1% for the Planet members are invited to visit the CLT office and its art gallery on Main Street the next time they are in Northern California. The goats may be dining elsewhere, but visitors will be impressed by the beauty and wildlife of the coastal bluffs, and they will understand why CLT volunteers work so hard to keep the bluffs in their natural state.
After the goat invasion!