Goats are helping clear the Bur Oak Land Trust.

A herd of goats is helping a nonprofit organization restore a rare oak savanna habitat in Eastern Iowa.

Seventeen goats are eating their way through 40 acres of invasive plants in Johnson County, where staffers at the Bur Oak Land Trust hope to ultimately restore the parcel to pre-settlement conditions. Jason Taylor is the property manager.

“And the goats are helping. The goats are doing the first push-through,” Taylor says. “Then, we go through and do some mechanical thinning. And then, reapplying fire to the landscape is how we’re eventually going to be able to restore what used to be here.” Taylor says the goats can tear through oriental bittersweet and honeysuckle much faster than humans.

“Two hours of work versus a week of work is a huge time savings for us,” Taylor says. “We’re a very small nonprofit, so we don’t have a lot of staff to come out and work on the property. That’s why having the goats just takes care of so much of that time for us. It really helps out immensely.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, Midwestern oak savannas are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Only a fraction of Midwestern oak savanna remains after settlers stifled wildfires and plowed native grasses.

(Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)