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Habitat improvement off and running at McIntosh Woods State Park

  • 9/21/2016 9:53:00 AM
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VENTURA -- Forty goats are the new ecosystem managers at McIntosh Woods State Park on Clear Lake and they are taking their roles very seriously. For six weeks they will clear targeted areas of woody invasive vegetation that is overpowering the native plants in the park.

“My staff and I have been cutting and treating invasive species for several years and not getting ahead of the problem,” says Tammy Domonoske, DNR park manager. “Our woodlands are sick and they need this prescription of grazing to regenerate a high-quality woodland.”

The DNR has successfully used goats in land management projects in other parts of the state, most notably on the steep slopes in northeast Iowa.

Domonoske recently strapped a camera to a goat she has named GoatPro to capture a goat's perspective of their work. A segment of the video clip can be seen on the DNR Facebook page at

Goats on the Go, a targeted grazing company based in Ames, provided the herd that is calling McIntosh Woods home. For more information about goats and Goats on the Go visit

The goats will be onsite until mid-October. The public is welcome to stop by during park hours to see them at work.

Some of the benefits of grazing goats:

·         Goats happily work in areas that would be uncomfortable and even dangerous for human workers – like steep slopes and shoreline banks, and dense woods.

·         The goats are essentially eating 24/7, clearing acres rather than the few hundred feet accomplished manually.

·         They are a “greener” way of managing invasive species; no heavy equipment to cause compaction or erosion; no carbon footprint; no chemicals.

·         Goats are browsers, meaning they prefer to eat weeds, brush and other woody vegetation over grass.

·         Many of Iowa’s most noxious weeds are on the top of the menu for goats -- buckthorn, crown vetch, eastern red cedar, honeysuckle, leafy spurge, mulberry, multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, poison ivy, ragweed, sunflower, thistle, wild parsnip and other noxious weeds, brush and invasive plants.

·         Eliminating non-native plants increases native diversity and native species, which have more complex root systems that hold soil and prevent erosion.  

·         Light-footed goats work in rough terrain with little risk of erosion and can actually thatch the soil surface, slowing runoff and increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil.

·         This is an example of conservation and agriculture working together for the betterment of natural resources.

·         The goats create valuable fertilizer as a by-product.