As another field season comes to an end, the time begins for extending deep thanks and appreciation. The number of hands helping to stave off invasive species increases each year. Some search for new sightings, others remove invading species and still others spread the word about their harmful impacts. By working together and each doing a small part, we make a seemingly overwhelming challenge - reducing the spread of invasive species - more achievable.
Volunteers, community groups and many others are making a difference. I want to highlight a few extraordinary efforts to give a snapshot of some of our local heroes:
The Regional Inlet Invasive Plant Program is a community-based initiative taking aim at one of the most troublesome plants in the region, Japanese knotweed. Douglas Johnson is a part-time resident with first hand knowledge of the rampant spread of knotweed along roadsides, rivers and streams in New England. He is dedicated to preventing this from happening in the Adirondacks.
Volunteers and partners of the Regional Inlet Invasive Plant Program are eradicating Japanese knotweed one infestation at a time.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Johnson)
Joined by other volunteers, like Ellen Collins, a resident of Blue Mountain Lake, and town employees, such as Patty Wittmeyer, Doug formed RIPPP, a local partnership eradicating knotweed one infestation at a time.
In 2007-08, the team began identifying locations of infestations in Inlet. They then raised funds for treatments, secured approvals from landowners and attained appropriate permits to treat the knotweed. The first year after treatment, 95 percent of knotweed plants showed no recovery. Sustained controls for a few more years should cement the fruits of their labor.
Their efforts are now expanding to other communities such as Blue Mountain Lake, North Creek and Lake Placid. Citizens are stepping forward to serve as volunteer plant coordinators in their communities to help RIIPP facilitate control efforts on private lands. Find out more online at www.noknotweed.org.
While RIIPP keeps Japanese knotweed at bay on land, lake associations armor our lakes against aquatic invasives. Each year the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) has the great pleasure of working with members of lake associations from Raquette Lake in the west and the Chatueagay Lakes in the north to Schroon Lake in the east and Canada Lake in the south and many waterways in between. Lake associations are identifying smart ways to help prevent introductions of new invasive species and to manage those that they may already have. Dedicated volunteer leaders mobilize shoreowners, local partners and resources and raise awareness about water quality issues and institute important lake saving projects.
While some lakes have associations to advocate their protection, many waters in the Adirondacks do not, but they are no less in need. More than 500 volunteers in the last decade joined APIPP's call to action to form an early detection network to search for new infestations of Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut and other aquatic invasive plants. Spending anywhere from one hour to 100 hours surveying each year, each volunteer adds a necessary extra defense.
Extending their impact, volunteers watch for aquatic invasives not only on the water but also on the roads. This summer, two volunteers teamed up to survey Stillwater Reservoir in the southwestern Adirondacks, a large lake with no aquatic invasives reported to-date. They completed their survey this summer and again, detected no aquatic invasives, however, that does not mean the threat of new introductions does not exist.
Enroute to Old Forge, one of the volunteers noticed a tailored boat laden with plant material and zebra mussels traveling to Stillwater. He followed the vehicle all the way to the boat launch. After talking with the owners, he learned that they had previously been in the St. Lawrence River, home to at least 87 different aquatic invasive species. The boaters were unaware of the issue but receptive to cleaning their boat before launching. Thanks to this volunteer's extra efforts, the visitors made arrangements for using another watercraft that day.
Traveling with "hitchhiking" aquatic plants is still legal in most of New York, but several towns in the Adirondacks rose to the challenge and passed local ordinances making it illegal to transport visible aquatic plants and animals on watercraft, trailers and gear. The Warren County Board of Supervisors recently passed a precedent setting county-wide transport law, the first of its kind in the state.
While its penalties will serve as a stiff reminder ($500 to $5,000 for offenders), the benefits will surely outweigh the costs (invasive species management efforts in Lake George alone weigh in at $3 million.) How much would the next invader cost? Hopefully the law will prevent us from finding out.
These and many other acts of leadership and volunteer stewardship are happening all over the Adirondacks to protect the region from invasive species. Thank you!
'Eye on Invasives' is a biweekly column that spotlights a top invader when it is easiest to identify. The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program is a partnership program housed at the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in Keene Valley. Find out more about this award-winning program online at www.adkinvasives.com.