Humans aren’t the only ones finding new green jobs in NYC. Freshkills Park in Staten Island recently hired a bunch of goats to help clean up the former landfill by eating away weeds. It turns out that city officials needed some help with a plan to transform the land into New York City’s first large park planned in over 100 years, so they are paying the goats (or rather their herder) $3,400 per week to clear away some stubborn invasive species that conventional methods had failed to eradicate.
The 20 Anglo-Nubian goats are on loan from a Hudson Valley farmer. Their task is to eliminate phragmites, a family of common weeds that drifted to New York from Europe in the late 19th century and have proven to become a near impossible species to eliminate. Phragmites have long frustrated ecologists as they have pushed out other east coast native grasses and have also been responsible for brush fires along the east coast.
City officials hope that the goats’ relentless appetites will weaken the pesky phragmites in a more eco-friendly manner. The elimination of the phragmites, however, will not be a completely ecological process. Park managers still plan on applying herbicides to kill any remaining phragmite rhizomes before the land is scarified and then covered in sand.
Nevertheless, the goats already have their fans. With Freshkills Park’s opening still a few years away, they could have a presence longer than the six weeks for which they were hired. One possibility is having them at the park as a 24/7 mowing herd, which would be less polluting than using mechanical mowers. And the park’s administrator, Eloise Hirsh would like to see an artisanal cheese maker on Staten Island as well.
Photos of goats courtesy Wiki Commons (John Haslam) and Leon Kaye