Goat-crowded Glossy Buckthorn Control Project underway at Swedetown Recreation Area

The goats will be busy for roughly two weeks eating glossy buckthorn on the trail system, which is absorbing resources needed by other plant life.
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 7:23 PM EDT
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CALUMET TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The Swedetown Recreation Area will be the home of roughly 35 goats for the next two weeks.

They will be busy eating away at an invasive species known as glossy buckthorn from the area’s forest understory. This is called the Glossy Buckthorn Control Project.

“We move all around northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and even now Northern Michigan, bringing them into areas that have been infested with buckthorn or other invasive species,” said Drifty Acres & Regenerative Ruminants Owner Jake Williams. “And utilize their grazing technique to help manage the management and control of those species.”

After clearing one area, the goats will be shifted to another section of the trail, guarded by fencing.

According to Williams, the goats usually operate in Wisconsin and Minnesota. MTU Research Assistant Professor and Keweenaw Invasive Species Management Area Coordinator Sigrid Resh contacted Williams regarding his involvement. He decided to participate after hearing what she had to say.

“She was really excited about it,” continued Williams. “And after talking with her, learning about her expertise, we decided to make an exception and bring the goats all the way out to Northern Michigan.”

Swedetown approached Resh last summer about using goats to handle the infestation, kickstarting the project. According to Resh, Swedetown has been trying to deal with the plants for years, but there has been too much to handle.

The shrub-sized species can be identified by its glossy leaves, white lenticels on its bark, and its pea-sized green, to red, to black fruit. According to Resh, very few insects and no diseases prevent their spread, allowing them to absorb resources nearby plant life needs.

“They’ve been here since the late 1800′s at least,” said Resh. “It spreads very rapidly and has taken over vast quantities of acreage up here like you would see at Swedetown as you’re hiking around. You’re hard-pressed to find an area that doesn’t have at least one glossy buckthorn.”

Resh will also be working with nine MTU students to collect data from the project. They will study the goat site, a site full of glossy buckthorn, and a minimally impacted ‘reference site’ area.

Swedetown funding and a Cooperative Weed Management Areas program grant from the U.S. Forest Service written by Resh made the project possible. They will have goat management in the area for three years.

“And then we’ll do a final measurement for a fourth year of data to look at how goats are changing the ecosystem properties after management,” added Resh.

Interested parties can actually see the goats at work during a meet and greet at the Swedetown Recreation Area on Saturday. They will be available from 10:00 a.m.-noon, and 2:00-4:00 p.m.