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What has 84 legs, weighs 3,000 pounds and is good for the Anne Arundel fairgrounds? Goats

The Arundel Rivers Federation is removing English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and poison ivy from the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, clearing the way for prettier native species that are more valuable for the animals that live in the area.

But first, it needs a blank canvas.

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To get there, the federation hired Brian Knox of Sustainable Resource Management and its subsidiary Eco-Goats. He brought a herd to the property last week for clearing.

“They’ll graze 15, 16, 18 hours a day. They’ll fill up their bellies and they’ll lay down and digest a little bit, and then they’ll get up again,” Knox said.

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Goats can eat a quarter of their weight in plant material every day. Knox brought 21 goats — about 3,000 pounds total. That’s about 750 pounds of scrub a day.

Knox said the goats aren’t the right solution for removing invasive plants most of the time. The goats eat everything — invasive species, native species, whatever. Knox uses electric fences to contain them to the area he wants them to clear.

But they were the right tool for the woods on the fairgrounds property.

“The friendliest goat in the world is one that’s been eating poison ivy because then they want to come rub all over you,” Knox said.

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Brian Knox of Sustainable Resource Management is using goats to remove English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and poison ivy from the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds,
Brian Knox of Sustainable Resource Management is using goats to remove English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and poison ivy from the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, (Rachael Pacella)

Jennifer Carr, Arundel Rivers director of grants and restoration, said once the goats have done their job, Knox will come back to dig out any of the invasive plants the goats missed. They will keep an eye on the area for a few months and continue to remove invasive species as they regrow, and once the area is clear enough, native species can be added, Carr said.

The project was funded using Anne Arundel County Forestry and Forested Land Protection grant program, operated by the Chesapeake Bay Trust using funds from development projects in the county.

Because the fairgrounds are used by the public so often, Arundel Rivers also wanted to make sure the aesthetics are on point. They have already planted some viburnum, serviceberry, dogwoods and other flowering species on the outskirts of the planting area.

Flowers are pretty, but they also provide a place to harvest food for pollinators.

For the center of the planting they have selected trees and plants with greater habitat value, Carr said. They put southern red and white oaks in the middle, which drop acorns and grow tall. The oaks also provide a spark of color when the weather gets cold.

So far about 800 trees and shrubs have been planted, and Carr expects that to grow to 1,000.

“If the timing is right, they’ll be changing to a nice, beautiful fall color when everyone is out here enjoying the fair,” Carr said.

Brian Knox of Sustainable Resource Management uses Eco Goats to clear plants from properties so that native species that are better for the environment can be planted. A herd of 21 goats cleared vegetation at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds last week.
Brian Knox of Sustainable Resource Management uses Eco Goats to clear plants from properties so that native species that are better for the environment can be planted. A herd of 21 goats cleared vegetation at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds last week. (Rachael Pacella)

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