Feeling sheepish


When the North Coast Land Conservancy (http://nclctrust.org) bought the Reed Ranch near Cullaby Lake in 2008, the 117-acre property was covered with invasive Scotch broom (pictured inset — all images are courtesy of the NCLC).

It took several years, but most of the weed was removed — except about 15 acres, which was on two steep dune ridges. The location of the 14-foot tall plants made them impossible to hand-cut, weed-whack or mow.

In November, NCLC hired Bigby’s Tree Service in Astoria to use a forestry mulcher (a giant tractor with teeth) on those pesky dunes. The mulcher, pictured, was a marvel, and wiped out the Scotch broom and blackberry thickets, but left native plants intact.

But how to keep the Scotch broom at bay? Its seeds can live up to 30 years in the soil. Helpful neighbor Bill Reed had the asnswer: Sheep. They enjoy munching on Scotch broom seedlings, so he brought some sheep over to graze (pictured) and keep things tidy.

In the spring, NCLC’s Melissa Reich will plant grass and native wildflower species on the dunes. “We’re kind of putting our all into this and hoping for the best,” she said. “Whatever happens will be better than it was.”

— Elleda Wilson