Jeremy Heiman | May 8, 2003
A herd of 500 goats will soon lead the war against noxious weeds in Pitkin County.
This Wednesday, Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program will rent 500 goats to eat weeds on 35 acres at the Seven Star Ranch in the Brush Creek Valley. And they’ll be back at work over the next four or five days, hopefully wiping out noxious weeds in the area.
County officials are hopeful the goats will eat thistles and houndstongue while leaving behind the native vegetation, which is mostly rabbitbrush and sage.
“The goats are the only critters we know of that will eat thistles,” said Dale Will, director of the Open Space program. “We’ve been struggling for years to come up with alternative ways of controlling weeds.”
Unfortunately for Will, you can’t rent 500 goats from the party rental place at the Aspen Airport Business Center. He had to go all the way to Wyoming, where he worked out a deal with Lani Lamming, of Alpine, Wyo. Lamming sends her herd all over the Western states to help control weeds.
Will said the goats have done well on other assignments, but what will happen when they’re turned loose on Seven Star is not certain.
“This is something of an experiment, to see how good they do at pulling thistles from between all this brush,” Will said.
The goats are expected to prefer the non-native weeds to the woody native plants.
“Apparently, what they like to do is eat leafy succulent plants,” Will said. The strategy involves getting rid of the weeds before their seeds mature, he said. The beasts may be brought back this fall for another banquet.
The success of the goat experiment will dictate whether the goats are used in the future on other open space parcels. The Open Space program owns 144 acres on Seven Star and has a conservation easement on 64 more acres. The land currently has no public uses.