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Indian River County using goats instead of chemicals to control weeds

Posted: 1:54 PM, Jan 23, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-24 04:15:44-05
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In recent months, a number of county and local municipalities have banned the use of glyphosate, a common herbicide known as Roundup, to control weeds. In Indian River County, they're trying a unique natural method to stop invasive plants from growing: goats.

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Bob Stephen bought his slice of paradise in Sebastian five years ago.

"We had big birds nesting, many types of big birds. This was heaven," Stephen said from the edge of his property looking out over the water.

But Stephen, the Director of the Friends of the St. Sebastian River, said he hasn’t seen many wading birds lately.

Stephen was thrilled to hear Indian River County announce this month it has stopped using glyphosate.

"It’s really big. Everybody’s finally catching on to this," said Stephen.

One alternative the county is now using is goats.

Steven Slatem is a goat rancher who runs Invasive Plant Eradicators. He’s contracted with the county to put his pack to work on two county owned conservation areas, totaling 87 acres.

"They’re excellent for this job. They love everything that grows out here and they’re grateful we have stuff growing all year round," said Slatem.

Beth Powell, the Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation with Indian River County said they take regular photos to document the goats progress.

"Can they shift the balance in favor of the native species? Put enough pressure on the non-natives species so the natives can come back in and thrive and can we do that with less herbicide or less mechanical treatment?" Powell asked.

Both sites the county owns were former orange groves. The purpose for the goats a little different at each site. The first site is about wetlands preservation, and the second site it’s about creating better habitat for tortoises.

In about two years, both sites will be open not just for the goats to enjoy, but for visitors as well.