Environmental Planning • Habitat Restoration • Biological Resources • Vegetation Management • Regulatory Compliance • Goat Grazing
16 Oct 2019

Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management Presentation to California Invasive Plant Council Symposium 2019

VIDEO: Click here or play button in image above.

ABSTRACT: “Prescribed Goat Grazing for Wildland Management.”

SPEAKERS: Robert Freese, PhD, Irvine Ranch Conservancy (rfreese@irconservancy.org) and Alissa Cope, Sage Environmental Group (acope@SageEnvironmentalGroup.com)

Prescribed grazing involves targeting undesired plants for removal while preventing overgrazing through close monitoring and adaptive management. Sage Environmental Group (Sage) owns an in-house herd of goats used to suppress invasive plants and remove fire fuel load. Herd ownership is unique for an environmental planning firm and an advantage to land managers who can rely on grazing activities that are planned and implemented from a scientific and reguIatory compliance perspective in accordance with local conservation plans.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) manages 30,000 acres of wildlands in Orange County and practices landscape-scale restoration with the goal of creating resilient and diverse habitats. Priority is given to restoring ecosystem processes whenever possible. IRC has collaborated with Sage to explore two applications of goat grazing in habitat restoration.

The first study involves prescribed grazing to reduce thatch cover, selectively remove annual grasses, and increase vigor of purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra) in a native grassland restoration project. Response of native grasslands to grazing relative to mowing and control plots is examined with respect to cover, density, and vigor (e.g. numbers of inflorescences) of purple needlegrass. Cover of annual grasses and thickness of the thatch layer are also examined.

The second study involves intensive, multi-year grazing to deplete the weed seed bank and prepare sites for direct seeding with native species. This latter project is a recent experiment being tried in locales where synthetic herbicides are not an option. Preliminary data include percent removal of annual grasses and broad leaf weeds, thatch reduction, and presence of viable seeds within fecal pellets. Results will be compared with data from adjacent mowed plots. In both projects, the timing, duration, and frequency of grazing with respect to grass and weed phenology need to be carefully considered.

LEARN MORE

https://irconservancy.org

https://sageenvironmentalgroup.com

https://www.cal-ipc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Cal-IPC_2019_Program.pdf’=

03 Oct 2019
Seed viability in goat droppings

Seed Viability in Goat Droppings?

Sage Environmental Group is often asked, "are the weed seeds viable after they pass through the goat's digestive system?" "Aren't they just eliminating and spreading weed seeds throughout the grazing site thus defeating the purpose of grazing?"

We determined to conduct our own germination test to answer that question. Our herd of goats are an important part of our weed abatement approach.

We believe the weed seeds are destroyed sufficiently. A goat chews weed seeds then passes them through four stomachs in the digestion process.

Alissa Cope, Principal Restoration Ecologist, prepared and monitored three test samples as depicted in the photo.

First, she planted new native seeds, purchased from a grower, in new sterile soil. This served as the control to demonstrate that the seeds were viable. These seeds successfully sprouted.

Second, she planted the native seeds in sterile soil and added goat droppings. These native seeds also successfully sprouted. No weed seeds sprouted.

Third, she added goat droppings to the sterile soil, but did not include native seed. This was the determining step. Nothing grew from the goat droppings.

Conclusion, seeds are not viable once they have passed through the goat's digestive system.

Future Research: Sage is recruiting university students who are interested in participating in research. We plan to conduct a series of similar tests utilizing soil from a variety of grazing sites. If you are interested in joining this research project, get in touch.

 

12 Jun 2019
Irvine Mayor Shea Visits Sage Goat Grazing Site at Bommer Canyon

Irvine Mayor Shea Visits Sage Goat Grazing Site at Bommer Canyon

The City of Irvine Mayor Christina L. Shea recently visited an Irvine Ranch Conservancy habitat restoration site at Bommer Canyon, where Sage Environmental Group was contracted to deploy its in-house herd of goats to graze invasive and non-native weeds during May 2019.

The site is located within Bommer Canyon in the City of Irvine Open Space Preserve. The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is implementing this habitat restoration project in partnership with the City of Irvine. The project is in an area that was part of Irvine's historic cattle operations that resulted in overgrazing and the introduction of non-native plants and weeds, which degraded the natural habitat.

Targeted, intensive goat grazing is being tested as a method to consume the weeds and seeds and prepare the site for direct seeding with native species. The restoration area will link existing coastal sage scrub habitat on the adjacent hillside with restored riparian habitat.

We invite you to view this short video that includes remarks by Christina L. Shea (Mayor, City of Irvine), David Raetz (Deputy Director, Irvine Ranch Conservancy), and Alissa Cope (Principal Planner/Habitat Restoration, Sage Environmental Group).

20 Apr 2019
Bommer Canyon Habitat Restoration Using Goat Grazing For Weed Eradication

Bommer Canyon Habitat Restoration Goat Grazing

Goat Grazing for Weed Control / Eradication

Habitat Restoration Interpretive Signage Bommer Canyon Goat GrazingHabitat Restoration Interpretive Signage Bommer Canyon Goat Grazing

Sage Environmental Group is partnering with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, City of Irvine, and UC Irvine Center for Environmental Biology to success test weed control / eradication methods at a designated habitat restoration site within Bommer Canyon on a multi-year basis. Before native plants can be re-introduced into the area, non-native grasses and weeds must be removed. The project area is located within Bommer Meadow, historically part of a working cattle camp. Livestock grazing and the introduction of non-native plants and weeds degraded the natural habitat over time, reducing the food, water, and shelter available for native wildlife.

Our scope of work entails documenting baseline conditions then deploying our in-house herd of goats to one of the designated areas at the Bommer Meadow site to intensively graze spring weed growth for several weeks. A total of four acres has been set aside for testing weed control / eradication methods to determine the optimal method that will result in long-term control. The methods being tested include goat grazing and mechanical removal (mowing). Over the multi-year project, Sage will document goat grazing activities in the context of Adaptive Management.

Success is achieved long- term through systematically and empirically testing hypotheses and assumptions, and incorporating lessons learned into transparent, adaptive, scientific” decision-making frameworks; and then acting on them in a timely way. We learn as much - or more - from our failures as we do our successes, constantly refining and improving our approaches. (Source: Irvine Ranch Conservancy)

The UC-Irvine Center for Environmental Biology (School Biological Sciences) facilitates research, education, and outreach in biological science to help develop innovative new solutions to environmental problems. Its goal is to apply science to conserve biodiversity in Orange County. Working in partnership with ecosystem and resource managers, UC Irvine faculty collaborate to conduct solutions-oriented research in environmental biology, and train the next generation of stewards of biological resources.

Come out to see our goats at work starting in the first weekend of May. Bring your family, bring your colleagues. You can view the goats from the hiking trail. IRC and Sage will use the Baseline Conditions and Monitoring Data to provide Adaptive Management documentation throughout the goat grazing effort in each project year. Information gathered will then be used to reevaluate goals and implementation methods; modify the goat grazing plan; and apply lessons learned to improve future results of weed control / eradication.

 

05 Mar 2019
Ecological Restoration Grasslands

UN Declares Decade of Ecosystem Restoration

Sage joins the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) in applauding the United Nation's declaration, issued on March 1, 2019. In its press release, SER stated, "The United Nations today recognized the critical role of ecosystem restoration as a tool for improving environmental conditions and enhancing human communities by designating 2021-2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This global recognition comes after growing calls and commitments by the international community to put ecological restoration at the forefront of national agendas. The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) applauds this important step toward focusing the world’s attention on the imperative of restoring degraded ecosystems."

Click here to read the full press release and learn more.

Depicted in the photo above is Sage's recent project utilizing our in-house herd of goats to remove invasive plants. This natural method of eradication is improving grasslands at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy in Southern California.