West Penn Park, the location of this project's plantings.

West Penn Park, the location of this project’s plantings. Credit: PGH Dumpsites/Flickr

About the Pittsburgh Hillside Restoration Pilot ReLeaf Project:

American Forests and Alcoa Foundation are partnering with Tree Pittsburgh, working with local partners, volunteers and Alcoa employees to remove invasive species from the wooded area around West Penn Park, restore the site with native tree species and manage and protect the site as a renewed community asset. The project is serving as a pilot for future restoration efforts along Pittsburgh’s hillsides and greenways by utilizing livestock to graze the site to combat the many invasive plants devastating the site.

ReLeaf Location:
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Key ReLeaf Activities:

  • Removing devastating invasive species using unique removal methods such as grazing sheep and goats
  • Planting 100 trees along a hillside to reintroduce additional native specimens to expand the natural urban forest
  • Educating volunteers and community groups on how to identify and remove invasive plants
  • Engaging neighborhood groups to help take ownership of community restoration efforts

Why This ReLeaf Project?

Pittsburgh’s green hillsides, greenways and verdant parks comprise a large portion of the city’s 42 percent tree canopy. Not only do these swaths of forested land provide countless health, economic and environmental benefits, but they provide an unparalleled view and unique landscape that is a source of pride for the city’s residents. Unfortunately, up close, it is obvious how unhealthy some of those forested areas are: overgrown with blankets of vines and Japanese knotweed, among other invasive plants.

Why Invasive Removal with Livestock?

The approach to invasive removal at the site is unique in the Pittsburgh region as livestock are being utilized to combat the existing invasive species. Sheep and goats have been used in Atlanta, New York and Baltimore, among others, because the animals:

  • can reach areas unsafe or undesirable for volunteers or heavy machinery;
  • disrupt the seed bank which is often the biggest challenge in the long-term battle against invasive species;
  • have hooves that help to aerate the soil, and droppings that provide fertilization to the site; and
  • attract media attention, expanding the audience who hears the message about the threats of invasive species to our urban forest.