Goats called in to tame O'Hare's vegetation - FOX 32 News Chicago

Goats called in to tame O'Hare's vegetation

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

You can get Wi-Fi service on your flight; and track air traffic and weather conditions at O'Hare with sophisticated programs, but one area of airport operations will be controlled with a method dating back centuries, if not millennia—goats and sheep.

In September, the city Department of Aviation, realizing overgrown vegetation in some areas of airport property could attract birds and other wildlife were tough for heavy machinery to reach.

So it put out a request for goats to control the dense scrub. The airport sought at least 25 goats and/or sheep and a contractor/shepherd to participate in a vegetation management pilot program.

On Wednesday, Aviation announced that a contract for sustainable management grazing services has been awarded to Chicago-based Central Commissary Holdings, which cares for a small grazing herd on a farm in northwest suburban Barrington Hills. The firm submitted the most competitive bid, a two-year contract with maximum compensation of $100,000, the statement said.

The program will begin this spring once sufficient foliage for the goats is available. Up to 120 acres of land on four sites have been identified for grazing, located away from or separated from airfields by security fencing, the statement said. They include hilly areas along creeks or streams, and roadway right-of ways overcrowded with dense scrub vegetation difficult to maintain with traditional landscaping equipment.

The goats and herder will remain supervised on airport property during the week and housed overnight in a transport trailer nearby during evening hours.

The airport says there are several benefits to having goats and sheep control the vegetation—economic, operational, and environmental. They include:

— Decreased landscape maintenance costs;

— Elimination of mowing/landscape debris;

— Reducing habitat for wildlife that may be hazardous to airport operations;

— Providing an alternative to toxic herbicides;

— Reducing use of equipment that emits carbon dioxide and other pollutants;

— Reducing the use of heavy equipment to minimize soil erosion.

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