The MRGCD, in co-operation with New Mexico State University and the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division, brought nearly 500 goats in 2004. The goats were introduced to clean out the non-native (exotic) invasive species in the bosque such as salt cedar and Russian olive. Those exotic species consume more water than the native vegetation, promote dangerous fires, and, if not managed properly, can edge out native species, like cottonwood trees. So far, the goats seem to leave the cottonwoods alone and eat the exotics.
Goats are one of the biological tools currently being used in New Mexico and elsewhere to assist land managers in the control of non-native plants and weeds. Goats eat nearly everything, including the undesirable plants, and when they are done, after two to three years of repeated treatments, they leave behind healthy native grassland. The native plants then flourish, while the non-natives have a difficult time establishing themselves in the native grass. The goats are efficient, they may be cheaper, in the long run, than mechanical methods, and they have no hazardous effects on the bosque.
The MRGCD goat project will continue through 2007. So far, the goats and their owners, Phyllis Myers of Belen and Sarah Harris of Bend, Oregon, have shown us they can be very successful partners with the District in weed control.