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Park Board moves ahead with goats, glyphosate ban

Park commissioners approved new tactics, from a reduction of glyphosate-based herbicides to using goats, in its fight against invasive species in the city’s parks.

Commissioners of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted to eliminate all products with glyphosate as an active ingredient, such as Roundup, from being applied in neighborhood parks. The decision follows a report that park staff presented in March detailing the board’s use of herbicide across the system.

The board may continue to apply the widely used chemical, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified last year as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” in the system’s golf courses, regional parks and existing projects already underway, such as in Loring Park.

The Park Board has been phasing out the chemical for years. Assistant Superintendent Justin Long said that prior to the ban, park staff and the board’s contractors applied very little glyphosate products in neighborhood parks.

“We use so little in our neighborhood park system… that’s why it made sense to start there,” he told The Journal. “We would much rather have a more sustainable park system if we can.”

The ban puts the onus on park staff to find alternatives to glyphosate-based products, Long said.

“Roundup has been considered safe in the past, however, recent research raises some concerns as to whether this is true. The Operations Committee chose to err on the side of safety for residents, our employees, and environment,” said At-Large Commissioner John Erwin, who also works as a horticultural science professor at the University of Minnesota, in a Facebook post.

Commissioners also approved a trial run to use goats to target invasive species like buckthorn in two areas of the park system. Park staff will select the sites, though commissioners have tossed around an area at Theodore Wirth Park.

The board hopes that by using goats they can better eradicate invasive species because the animals can get to steep and wooded areas and are more efficient than having staff mechanically cut away at the weeds. Plus, they’re not expensive, Long said.

Long was a part of Atlanta’s park system when it tried using goats to eat away at ivy and kudzu. The goats “decimated” them, he said.

While goats aren’t a silver bullet, Long said they give the board another option in its management of invasive species.

“It’s another tool in the process. I don’t think it’s been ruled as a solution,” he said.

Long expects to use goats on the two sites this year.