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Legacy frustrations getting UDOT's goat?
by Melinda Williams, Staff Writer
May 23, 2005 | 478 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NORTH SALT LAKE -- The Utah Department of Transportation has hired 750 new employees to work on the Legacy Parkway. No, they're not $20-an-hour construction workers. These new workers are willing to work solely for their meals. They're cute goats, brought to the Legacy Nature Preserve to eat the flowering portions of noxious weeds, allowing native plants to flourish. Actually Box Elder County rancher Jason Garn, who owns the goats, is receiving $2 per head per day. The goats will be at the preserve about four weeks.

Last week, UDOT gave the media the opportunity for a close up and very personal look at the goats who were not at all shy. In fact one seemed particularly fond of eating a television reporter's script, so that before she finished her report, her notes were gone.

The goats are kept in one area while they eat. When the weeds are cleared from that area, they'll be moved as a herd to another area, according to UDOT spokesman Tom Hudachko. When the project is completed, they will have eaten their way through about 40 acres.

Formal work on the parkway has not begun, nor can it until the supplemental Draft Environmental Statement process is complete. But UDOT is moving ahead with work on the 2,098-acre Nature Preserve.

Part of that work requires the control of noxious and invasive weeds. That usually is accomplished with chemical weed killers which can harm other plants, animals and birds in the area.

The idea to have goats clear the land in a natural way came from a Collaborative Design Team, an alliance of conservationists and others, concerned with preserving the area, according to John Thomas, UDOT's project director for the parkway.

The goats are happy to munch on the weeds, crushing about 99 percent of the seeds as they chew. As a result the seeds aren't spread through the digestive process. The goats also virtually ignore native plants which will be beneficial to wildlife in the area.

Another advantage? The goats' droppings fertilize the area, preparing the land for revegetation.

Last year, Garn's goats were similarly put into service by the U.S. Forest Service on the hillside east of Farmington, to clear unwanted growth for fire prevention.

mwilliams@davisclipper.com
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