By Vivian Collings
Barnum Creek Nature Reserve is going with green power in a big way this summer with six healthy four-legged eaters. Relatives Juniper, Maple, Apple, Pear, Cedar, and Walnut (Wally) will be joining the landscape in July.
Haliburton Highlands Land Trust’s new initiative, Goats at Work: Natural Conservation in Action, is a pilot-project that will bring t hese six furry family members from Killara Station in Gelert to Barnum Creek to clear one hectare of land ecologically in replacement of the reserve’s tractor.
Board director at Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT), Sheila Ziman, said that cleared areas are essential to providing a thriving ecosystem.
“Open areas are limited in Haliburton County, however, they are very important in providing habitat for those species that like to bask in the sun and forage and nest in fields,” Ziman said in an April 26 press release. “Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is committed to keeping this area open to provide habitat for eastern milksnakes and monarch butterflies.”
Ziman said that both of these at-risk species have been well-documented at Barnum Creek. Keeping 27 hectares of land clear for these species at the reserve is a top priority, especially if it can be done in an ecological way.
“If we don’t keep that field clear, then the surrounding forest will grow, and we will lose that open area completely,” Ziman said.
This initiative is made possible through a $4,000 grant from Haliburton County Development Corporation’s Local Initiatives Program, which provides funding to local groups who plan to launch new initiatives to help strengthen the community.
Program and operations coordinator at Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC), Heather Reid said that HHLT’s Goats at Work initiative is “a novel concept in terms of community involvement. Their new idea to help our environment as well as support two other local businesses was what helped us decide that they should receive funding.”
The goats will be provided by Susan Peel, owner of Killara Station in Lochlin, and they will be enclosed by portable solar-powered electric fencing provided by The Great Haliburton Feed Company and housed in a horse trailer at night to avoid predators.
“Goats eat everything, and we are confident that they will clear the area as well as a mechanical mower, while providing co-benefits of fertilizing the land and reducing use of fossil fuels,” Peel said.
Inventory of all woody plants within the hectare of land will be conducted by Paul Heaven of Glendale Ecological Services before the goats take up residence.
“He will assess the effectiveness of the goats at removing woody plants by determining the percentage consumed and the average height of any woody plants left,” Ziman said.
At this time, whether or not goat clearing is more cost-effective than a mechanical mower is unclear. This will be dependent on how long the goats need to stay in the area to clear it, and what percentage of the vegetation is eaten.
If the initiative is successful, HHLT hopes to use goats to clear other areas in the future as well as inspire others to do the same.
HHLT is planning a public educational event “for families and kids to come look at the goats at the reserve and learn about the importance of keeping the area clear in an environmentally-friendly way. It will be lots of fun,” said Ziman.
Although some in the herd are described as being “a bunch of hams” by Peel, they will undoubtedly put their best hoof forward when put to work at Barnum Creek.
Dates will be scheduled early this summer on the HHLT website, www.haliburtonlandtrust.ca/. For more information about their Goats at Work initiative, contact Sheila Ziman firstname.lastname@example.org.