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Goats chomp away at Congressional Cemetery

Thursday - 8/8/2013, 4:45am  ET

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A billy goat chomps down a particularly tasty branch at Congressional Cemetery. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

Equal-opportunity eaters take on cemetery landscaping

Megan Cloherty, WTOP reporter

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WASHINGTON - It's rough terrain near the Anacostia River full of downed logs, ivy and ditches, so the Congressional Cemetery rolled in five dozen goats to clear it.

It may be an understatement to say that the land south of the cemetery's east end has grown over. It's very difficult to walk through the area and it would be expensive to bring in a landscaping crew to clean it.

"If you can get a tractor and a brush hog in there, you can brush hog 15 acres in a day, that's cheap. But there's a big ditch here. There's logs in there. There's all kinds of heavy, woody debris that you can't just brush hog over," says Brian Knox with Eco-Goats.

His company delivered 60 goats to Congressional Cemetery Wednesday to replace the modern-day machinery.

At first, the goats ran off the truck. But the sight of a crowd eager to greet them sent some of them back the other way.

More than a dozen community members and reporters came to see the cemetery's newest employees, ready to eat anything in front of them. And there's a lot of vegetation growing in this unkempt piece of land to keep the goats busy.

"Bush honeysuckle, English ivy, porcelain berry, poison ivy ... [They'll eat] whatever else is mixed in. I'm not sure about these morning glories. They've never seen them," Knox says.

In seven days, Knox expects his goats will have cleared this acre and a half that's currently obstructing cemetery visitors' view of the river.

"We've been kind of looking out for a green environmental solution to this area back here, which you can tell is heavily wooded," says Lauren Maloy, program director for the cemetery.

Pointing to Knox, Maloy shared her hopes for the project.

"He said they don't eat everything! So, we'll have to see what they can do. But apparently they do some pretty drastic work," Maloy says.

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