The Rio Grande’s cottonwood forest is overgrown with water-sucking, firefueling salt cedar and other invasive weeds. To clear the bosque, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in New Mexico is hiring up to 1,000 goats to munch their way through the unwanted vegetation and preserve both the cottonwoods and the water flow.
Goats have already been used successfully on smaller projects and proved themselves to be both effective and economical. The larger 100-acre project is due to begin in mid-September after the migratory bird nesting period. The goats will be confined to plots of two to five acres by temporary fencing. Herders must supervise the goats around the clock to track down any escapees and monitor interactions with wildlife and domestic animals in the area. They will also have to move the goats once an area has been thoroughly munched.
The goat project provides an opportunity for livestock owners and goat herders in New Mexico to supplement their incomes while allowing the conservancy to improve the health of the bosque at a reasonable cost.