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Four-legged landscapers help combat against invasive species in Mequon

goats in a field
The Mequon-Theinsville Sunrise Rotary Club
Goats of the Mequon-Theinsville Sunrise Rotary Club

Milwaukee County wants to hire goats to maintain the parks and help eliminate invasive plant species around the county. A nearby suburb has already seen success in putting the four-legged kids to work.

Mequon began goat landscaping back in June 2020 in the Pukaite Woods. For the last couple summers, the goats visit the woods and graze on the land, removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn. The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and the Mequon-Thiensville Sunrise Rotary Club helped bring the herd to Mequon.

The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is nonprofit organization that works to protect and steward land and water for the benefit of all, Connie Pukaite explains. She is the chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee with the Mequon-Thiensville Sunrise Rotary Club and a former mayor of Mequon.

In fact, the Pukaite Woods was named after her to celebrate her years of service as mayor. In 2014, the Rotary Club approached the land trust to help them steward a local Mequon woodland. Since then, the two groups have collaborated to control invasive plants, specifically common buckthorn.

Christine Bohn, the land trust's stewardship coordinator, says the groups were looking to avoid using chemicals to control invasive plants so they connected with Kim Hunter who operates The Green Goats.

"We began to work with Kim to put together a project that we hoped would serve as a demonstration to the local community that goats could be used to increase our capacity to control invasive species like buckthorn across the landscape," says Bohn.

They've seen significant stress to the invasive species on the land.

Visitors who get the see the goats in action express sheer joy, Pukaite adds. They've had many community members request information about using goats on private properties and on other nearby municipal properties

"We have a number of private property owners who have contracted to utilize our little herd of goats. When they're not working for us," Pukaite says.

Bohn points out that the land is facing a lot of pretty serious environmental issues, climate change being one of them. With that pressure, the need to come up with new creative solutions to some of these persisting threats is very evident, she says.

"I think the land trust and the Rotary Club deserve a lot of credit in their leadership for stepping outside of their regular management options and trying something new, which can be hard sometimes," says Bohn.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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