I started my morning at 6:15 am, rushing to get my SAHC camera charged, coffee made, and my hiking boots on. Although I could barely keep my eyes open I was excited to head up to the Highlands of Roan to help herd the goats of the Baa-tany Goat Project off of their summer home there.
The project, started by Jamey Donaldson, is intended to restore grassy bald corridors on Roan’s western slopes by employing goat grazing. The balds are home to many rare and endemic species, including Gray’s Lily and others near the southern tips of these ranges. However, the balds are dying due to changes in soils, climate change, and lack of large herbivores (plant eaters) that historically grazed there. These factors makes them more hospitable for woody plant invasion, like the Canandian blackberry. Luckily, this is one of the goat’s favorite foods and they are working hard every summer to maintain the balds.
When I arrived at the Carver’s Gap parking lot I introduced myself to Todd Eastin, the goats’ owner, and he explained a little bit about his goats and what we were going to be doing as goat herders. People trickled in as he was discussing our plan of action and by the time we got ready to head up to the goat paddocks there were around 35 volunteers ready to help herd them onto Todd’s trailer.
After we arrived at the goat paddocks near Jane bald, Todd and Jamey instructed us on where to go and then let the goats out of the fence. They were led by their two Great Pyrenees watchdogs and spurred on by Jamey saying, “Come on pretty ladies,” and enticing them with corn.
The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy got our start in the Highlands of Roan and the Roan area is still one of our important focus areas. The unique habitat that the balds provide must be preserved and the Baa-tany goat project is vital in doing that. As many of you know, these places possess a unique spirit that seems to feed the soul. To learn more about the Baa-tany Goat Project and ways that you can help click on the Baa-tany Goat Brochure link below.