Well, it’s really just a small section of Polish Hill, and they won’t be governing so much as they’ll be chowing down on overgrown vegetation, but it’s still a pretty intriguing mental image.
Tree Pittsburgh will unleash a herd of 30 local goats on a steep hillside next to West Penn Park at Brereton Street this morning to begin clearing away years of overgrowth. It’s a space where later this year, the organization will plant 110 new restoration trees which are being grown at Tree Pittsburgh’s facility in Point Breeze.
Why goats? They’re basically nature’s lawnmowers.
“Goats eat all day,” says Tree Pittsburgh Executive Director Danielle Crumrine. “Brian anticipates that they should be able to clear it in a day. They work pretty fast.”
Crumrine is referring to Brian Knox, the supervising forester with Annapolis-based Eco-Goats—a company which oversees the use of goats as an environmentally friendly and sustainable tool for clearing invasive plants from areas designated for development and reforestation.
It’s not a new idea. Tree Pittsburgh’s counterparts in places like Atlanta and Baltimore have been using goats as a first line of attack for years, especially in areas which might be hazardous to human volunteers—like on steep slopes where goats are far more sure-footed than people.
In addition to treating the goats to a non-stop buffet from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tree Pittsburgh is using the event to host a workshop on what it thinks could be dynamite business opportunity for the Pittsburgh region.
“This is something that’s not being done in Pittsburgh,” says Crumrine, who initially opened the workshop up to 20 registrants, but expanded enrollment when she saw more serious interest than she anticipated. “I think there’s a real business opportunity here, especially given our steep hillsides.”
Crumrine says she hopes someone is able to run with the idea so that goats-as-landscapers can become a more common sight in Pittsburgh. Even if you’re not interested in a startup business which involves buying a herd of goats, you can still come out to watch them eat away at the knotweed.
A fence will contain the goats so they won’t get loose and wreak havoc on the city’s 42 percent Urban Tree Canopy, which, believe it or not, is something Tree Pittsburgh has considered.
“We have a picture we use in our sessions of Mt. Washington with all of the trees gone and the hill just covered in goats,” Crumrine jokes.