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To Goat or Not to Goat?

Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:56


It looks as if the goats will be coming to Montauk. This is despite concerns from neighbors of the semipublic Benson Reserve, among others, about a 10-year land-clearing plan that the East Hampton Town Board appears to support.

The problem, according to the private Concerned Citizens of Montauk, which is leading the call for the project, is that sections of land along Old Montauk Highway have become overgrown. Left to graze for a period of time, the goats would eat most everything in sight, apparently preferring invasive plants over native ones. Money for the hired mouths would come from a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation grant; about a third of the cost would come from a private donor. But some observers smell something funny already.

Complaints about the proposal include the question of who would benefit, versus who would pay. According to, the consultants brought in to work out the details on the proposed clearing also represent a wealthy landowner and appear to be all about “boosting property values,” rather than helping the environment. The opponents also fear a possible tax hike to pay for what would be the town’s responsibility to maintain the site indefinitely. Legal action is being contemplated that could stop the clearing before the goats even arrive.

It is difficult to know where to come down on this. The land there is not in a pristine state and could regrow eventually, so the harm would be less than if it were actual untouched wilderness. On the other hand, the more-than $650,000 from a state environmental fund could be used on higher-priority sites. This last point might tip the balance.

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