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USACE Omaha District enters handshake partnership agreement to use goat grazing to control eastern red cedar trees at Fort Randall

USACE, Omaha District
Published Sept. 2, 2021
Goats grazing cedar trees for targeted grazing studies on eastern red cedar trees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District’s Fort Randall Project near Pickstown, South Dakota,  June 18.

Goats grazing cedar trees for targeted grazing studies on eastern red cedar trees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District’s Fort Randall Project near Pickstown, South Dakota, June 18.

South Dakota State University volunteer, students and staff, measure and tag cedar trees for targeted goat grazing studies on eastern red cedar trees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District’s Fort Randall Project near Pickstown, South Dakota, June 10.

South Dakota State University volunteer, students and staff, measure and tag cedar trees for targeted goat grazing studies on eastern red cedar trees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District’s Fort Randall Project near Pickstown, South Dakota, June 10.

As stewards of almost 400,000 acres of public lands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District welcomes opportunities to work together with local organizations and communities who share common goals and interests in conserving public resources. The Omaha District Fort Randall Project in South Dakota recently entered in a handshake partnership agreement with South Dakota State University, the Mid-Missouri River Prescribed Burn Association, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Wildlife Division, Charles Mix County 4-H, and Gregory County 4-H with the purpose of completing goat targeted grazing studies on eastern red cedar trees.

As part of the overall USACE Natural Resource Management Program, the Eastern Red Cedar Control Handshake Program enhances recreation and natural resources management opportunities by utilizing the full potential of partnerships.

Cedar trees are native to the region and provide ecological value. There are many benefits of allowing cedars to grow on the lake shore and surrounding USACE properties, including wildlife shelters and nesting cover for migrating birds. In addition, cedars tend to grow well where other species do not, providing a root system to hold soil. Eastern red cedar trees have been deemed an invasive species for a several reasons. The trees have dense canopies that prevent precipitation and sunlight from reaching the grass and other vegetation below, causing them to die off. Due to a variety of oils within the tree, they can be quick to ignite in dry conditions. A burning red-cedar tree can spread thousands of embers downwind, increasing the rate of a wildfire's spread.

The program will allow the agencies to share resources to conduct a study and develop a proactive approach to manage eastern red cedar trees by using targeted goat grazing at the Fort Randall Project. Targeted grazing focuses a group of animals; in this case, goats on a specific area to manage a designated plant species. Partners are contributing livestock, fencing, supplies, the coordination of field days, workshops, site preparation and follow-up visits, outreach, data collection and analysis, grazing activities, and observations. For this study, grazing activities will occur in three different grazing plots at the Fort Randall Project, one in each season, spring, summer, and fall.

“This partnership at Fort Randall, will help us continue to accomplish mission objectives, protect wildlife, and improve habitats, protect the environment, while enhancing our ability to outreach to the public,” said Zach Montreuil, natural resources specialist, USACE, Omaha District.

The first phase of the grazing trials started in June of 2021. Grazing activities will be conducted early, mid, and late summer. “During the first grazing application, in June, a group of 100 goats grazed a little more than one-eighth of an acre in a 24 hour period, targeting the eastern red cedars present. This was repeated for four consecutive days, helping us to determine the effectiveness of the goats.” said Kelsey M. Kniffen, park ranger, USACE, Omaha District Fort Randall Project Office. Over the length of the study, six grazing applications will be completed.

Through environmental planning, USACE works with other federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions to find innovative solutions to challenges that affect everyone – sustainability, climate change, endangered species, ecosystem restoration and more.

The Omaha District works to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function, and dynamic processes to a more natural condition through large-scale ecosystem restoration projects throughout the Missouri River watershed by employing system-wide watershed approaches to problem solving and management for smaller ecosystem restoration projects. Additionally, the USACE regulatory program works to ensure no net loss of wetlands while issuing construction permits.