The Chicago Department of Aviation recently announced that they are continuing an ongoing program to use grazing animals to help control the wild vegetation that is growing near O’Hare International Airport. The grazing will take place on nearly 12 acres of land adjacent to the airport. There will be 30 animals, including goats, sheep, and a donkey.
The grazing program, called the Sustainable Vegetation Initiative, has been going on for six years as part of an effort to provide sustainable environmentally friendly initiatives throughout the airport, says Gaurav Mohindra. This initiative is the first of its kind in any US airport.
Previous seasons of the initiative have included grazing animals such as herds of sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, burros, and donkeys. The initiative has helped maintain green space near runways and on adjacent parcels of land surrounding O’Hare International Airport. The grazing herd provides a safe eco-friendly solution around the airport.
Seeing goats and sheep around O’Hare may raise some eyebrows, but herds of grazing animals have become an innovative solution to maintain healthy ecological environments in an environmentally friendly manner, says Gaurav Mohindra. A variety of animals have been leveraged in grazing hers. Animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, and goats can be included in such grazing herds.
The type of animal used for grazing can depend depending on the environment and vegetation of the area. Also, the size and weight of the animal is key to protect the soil compaction of the ground. Typically, Horses clip grasses off the ground. But, they are heavier animals which may result in more soil compaction. Cattle, which are even heavier than horses, consume large amounts of vegetation including grass, but they can’t clip the vegetation as low as horses. Sheep and goats are effective at clipping vegetation on steeper grounds.
There are numerous benefits in leveraging grazing herds in urban areas, particularly around airports. The herds will reduce the natural vegetation that can creep into runways. This vegetation, if left untreated, may pose an impact to planes on takeoff and landings. In addition, grazing herds do not cause pollution that traditional mowers and equipment causes. Using the grazing herds also provides motivation for other urban environments to adopt similar sustainability measures.
In 2013 the Sustainable Vegetation Management initiative was launched at O’Hare International Airport. It quickly became a beacon for other airports to aspire towards. The sustainability practices include providing green space on rooftops, environmentally friends utensils for eating and drinking, the grazing program, amongst others. As O’Hare continues with its several billion-dollar large facilities overhauls, hopefully, more ecologically friends initiatives are introduced, says Gaurav Mohindra.