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Wooly Green Grazers saving Renard Island, one grazed blade of grass at a time

More than 30 sheep have been moved from Appleton to graze on Renard Island in the summer, instead of paying county workers to maintain it.
Posted at 6:03 AM, May 24, 2024

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Three flocks of sheep will be grazing different locations on Renard Island over the next 35 days, and then the animals will be moved to another spot where they'll help keep down the tall grass and invasive species.

The Wooly Green Grazers of Appleton have been hired by Brown County leaders to help improve the island's soil and landscape while also saving taxpayers a little money.

"Oh, I love it. There are a couple of projects I've had in my career. This is one of them," said Brown County Port & Resource Recovery Business Development Manager Mark Walter.

Walter saysRenard Island at the Port of Green Bay is getting a fresh startwith the help of more than 30 sheep.

Walter says the $10,000 cost to bring these animals and their shepherds — Roxie and Daniel Eumson of Appleton — is far less expensive than having crews constantly maintaining the island.

"Our sheep do eat invasives (sic.). So, buck thorn, phragmites, and that type of stuff. They love that," Roxie Emunson said.

The Emunsons say the grass is safe to graze — even though from 1978 to 1997, more than 2.7-million cubic yards of dredged sediment from the Green Bay Harbor was moved to the 55-acre island, then eventually covered with non-contaminated soil in 2015.

"Ultimately, the sheep's health is the most important. If something were to happen out here, which I can't imagine what it would be, but if something were to happen, we would immediately pull our sheep off, because their safety and their health is our number one concern," Roxie Emunson said.

The Emunsons and Walter say the goal is to eventually develop the island so people can visit in the next few years.

However, the Emunsons will continue to shepherd their sheep there to make sure they're grazing the grass, healthy, and safe.

"Every day, and unfortunately the public just can't get out here. I really wish they could, but there's rules. It's not safe. It's not safe for the sheep for people to be out here. I would also worry that some of our sheep might not be excited to meet other people, especially if we're not out here," Roxie Emunson said.

"Between the millions of people who go to Bay Beach Amusement Park every year, and the fact that this is offering a different experience, I think that this is just really exciting for the future," Walter said.

It's important to note that Renard Island is not open to the public, people are reminded not to trespass, and measures will be in place to watch the sheep and keep them safe.