Ecological land management and preventing fires with goats
La Plata County is working with local goat farmers to help mitigate noxious weeds in Bodo Park.
DuranGoats is a small newly established goat farm located in Breen. Jonathan Bartley is a co-owner of the farm. They’ve been regular venders at the Durango farmers market talking to locals about the importance of an eco-friendly approach to managing lands and mitigating wildfires all by using goats.
One of Bartley’s visitors at the booth was building maintenance team leader for La Plata County, Frank Van Sherpenseel. Van Scherpenseel has several buildings that could use the goats' hunger for noxious weeds.
The county is starting small and has contracted with DuranGoats for weed mitigation and fertilizations of the grounds at the La Plata County Detention Center in Bodo Park.
Nearly a dozen goats arrived at the grounds last week and Van Scherpenseel is hopeful that there could be a greater opportunity to use the goats in the future.
"What the goats are doing, obviously they are eating the weeds, with their little hoof prints they are aerating the land, they are fertilizing it, it's an option that we could reseed it if we wanted. And ultimately if this is being done in say a forested area, on public lands, it could be fire mitigation."
The county says the benefits include, but are not limited to, increased water retention, increased competition against the weeds, better soil health, and a more pleasant and healthy-looking area.
For Bartley, having the goats around brings a more traditional approach to farming.
"It's basically an approach to holistic farming. If you have any excess, any resource that's not being used, you have to find a way to utilize that. That's the beauty of this, it's that we're just trying to create circles, keep the ecology of the Durango area, the La Plata County in check."
Goats will be under control at all times and locked in, either by panels or free ranging in the secured courtyard areas.
According to the county, a horse trailer will be left at the facility to house the goats in the evenings.
Since starting DuranGoats just a few months ago, Bartley has seen an increase in demand for using the goats as mitigation, and is working on growing his company to fit those needs.
"When it comes down to it, you know we're trying to impact the ecosystem of the whole La Plata County area, maybe even San Miguel too, we're going to step it up for that. So, next year we're hoping to get a herd of closer to thirty to fifty goats, a little bit larger rural areas. Hopefully we can keep these county contracts coming. There's a lot of weeds in the area, and I think that there's just not really a solution, at least an economical solution at the moment. And this is not only an economical solution, but it's environmental, it's powerful and we're just excited to bring it to the people of the La Plata County area."
This story from KSUT Tribal Radio was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, including Aspen Public Radio.