NATURES WEED EATERS  Top: Conrad Lindbloom of Rocky Ridge Vegetation Control with his herd of goats at Lakeshore Resort & Campground.

NATURES WEED EATERS Top: Conrad Lindbloom of Rocky Ridge Vegetation Control with his herd of goats at Lakeshore Resort & Campground.

Invasive weeds are an ongoing issue throughout the East Kootenay region, but for the Akisqnuk First Nations traditional territory, a counter attack program is hard at work. A herd of 350 goats from Rocky Ridge Vegetation Control have been brought onto Akisqnuk land to eat a variety of invasive weeds in the area.

The Akisqnuk First Nation band has been working on and off with the East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council and Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society to combat invasive weeds. The band was put in touch with Tracy Kaisner with West Fork Resource Management out of Sparwood, B.C. Ms. Kaisner put together an Invasive Plant Management Plan for the Akisqnuk First Nation Land Department. The plan was brought to both the band council and to community members at a membership meeting for discussion.

Different options for treatment were laid out so different options were taken to council, different options were taken to the community. Those options included different mechanical treatments, things like the goat treatment and things like herbicide treatments, said Akisqnuk lands manager Adrian Bergles.

With little interest in using herbicides, the band decided to move forward with the goat treatment option, something that was more accepted by the community. The goat program has never been used by the Akisqnuk band, but has previously been adopted by other Ktunaxa First Nation bands in the Kootenays.

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In some respects, the Ktunaxa First Nation of the Kootenays are leaders in this area, in this regard, said Mr. Bergles.

The Akisqnuk band is being proactive in trying to reduce or completely eradicate invasive weeds on their land. With one to two percent of the Akisqnuk lands affected by the invasive weeds, the hope is to reduce that number with the use of the goats.

Naturally, goats like to eat weeds and brush so its just natural for them because theyre browsers. We work on that instinct they have and then we just develop from there and work with them with weeds, said Conrad Lindbloom of Rocky Ridge Vegetation Control.

The 350 goats are a mix of breeds, but what Mr. Lindbloom has found to work best for invasive weed control are Kiko goats. The herd is working at Lakeshore Resort & Campground as well as on Kootenay Road #3 for a total of 10 days. The weeds being targeted with this program are spotted knapweed, babys breath, leafy spurge and sow thistle. The goats typically start working on invasive weed control projects in June when weeds start developing.

When theyre starting to flower, its a good time to graze on them and even when theyve gone to seed. Goats have a 100 per cent digestion so if the plants have gone to seed and the goats eat the seeds off they wont transfer any seed and so that works very well to get rid of the seed bank that way, said Mr. Lindbloom.

The invasive weed control program will be an ongoing process for the next few years with the use of the herd to set back the weeds. Looking towards eradication of invasive weed outbreaks in year two or year three of the program is the goal.