Seashore will test goats at historic D Ranch

08/14/2014

The National Park Service will experiment with a possible remedy for invasive plant species in the seashore by introducing goats onto a small section of the historic D Ranch that is overgrown with wild radish, poison hemlock and a variety of thistles to the detriment of “historic structures and the cultural landscape,” a statement to potential bidders said. The National Park Service posted a solicitation for quotes from contractors last Thursday and will hold a site visit at the 16-acre section of land this morning. In their recent scoping letter, the Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association had asked for agriculture to resume on D Ranch after the Horick family was evicted in 1999, following Vivian Horick’s death in a car accident. According to the new plan, goats will be set out to graze within a fenced area in three, two-week “applications” to test whether their appetites and four-chambered stomachs can “reduce the undesirable plants over the long-term.” Mowers or weed cutters will not be permitted due to the presence of the threatened red-legged frog, and the goats must have their hooves cleaned and hair brushed or sheered to prevent new weeds and parasites emerging. If successful, the park service hopes the goats will mow down most of the leaves and stem growth to one to four inches and be a model for natural rangeland management, as opposed to clipping plants or controlled burns, said John Dell’Osso, a seashore spokesperson. “I’m not sure cows would go in and eat a lot of this stuff, but goats will go in and pretty much eat the wood on a fence if they’re allowed to do that,” Mr. Dell’Osso added. “This is purely experimental at this point, and it will be an interesting way to see if we could use it again down the road. It’s a way to try something different.” The seashore is looking for a small business—usually worth three-quarters of a million—to take the job.