Governors Island herding up new workers

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The Trust for Governors Island has officially introduced its
five newest employees to New York City—a family of five sheep.

Flour, Sam, Evening, Chad, and Philip Aries hail from
Friends of Tivoli Lake Preserve and Farm in Albany and will spend the next four
to five months on Governors Island, helping to control invasive plant species
in Hammock Grove by eating them.

Sheep’s love for herbaceous plants, such as grasses,
phragmites and flowering plants like mugwort and sunflowers make them a natural
fit to join the Island’s horticultural division. Replete with such delicacies
(phragmites being the sheep’s favorite), the flock will live on the Island,
enjoying a lush grove and eating its invasive plants all summer long.

“The sheep are very happy to be joining us on Governors Island for the summer, and we are thrilled to have them here,” said Clare Newman, President & CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “This innovative, environmentally friendly landscaping program will protect our Island’s plant life from invasive species while allowing our horticulture team to spend their time on more productive pursuits than weeding Hammock Grove. Our new sheep employees have arrived at the perfect time, and we welcome their contributions to help protect the natural landscapes of Governors Island.”

Mugwort, phragmites and other invasive plant species have a
competitive nature and crowd other plantings within the park, essentially
creating a monoculture. The sheep eating these herbaceous plants helps to break
down and weaken them, preventing them from flowering and the seeds spreading.

Recruiting a herd of sheep is extremely beneficial to the
Trust for Governors Island’s efforts to care for the park, as it reduces the
time spent on invasive species removal to less than 30 percent of the gardening
staff time. Having the sheep deal with the invasive plants allows the
horticulture team to focus more on the well-being of the trees and soil and
ensure that the forest in Hammock Grove thrives on Governors Island. Previously
the horticulture team was spending a tremendous amount of time weeding, and the
sheep represent a cost effective and eco-friendly solution that  allows the team to be more productive and
efficient.

Sheep are also uniquely suited to the work on Governors
Island, more so than goats or other animals, since their culinary tastes do not
include tree bark. The sheep will eat around the young trees in Hammock Grove
and focus on phragmites and other delicacies, while goats would devour
virtually any plant life they could get their hooves on, invasive or not.

This isn’t the first time sheep have been brought to NYC to
work. Sheep and goats have ben enlisted across the city for several years for
the practice of what’s also known as  “eco-grazing.”

Goats have been used at Freshkills Park on Staten Island,
Riverside and at Stuyvesant Cove Park in lower Manhattan. The Sheep Meadow in
Central Park was home to a flock of sheep from 1864 to 1934, and they were
housed, along with their shepherd, in what is now the Tavern on the Green
restaurant.

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