Season highlights for Invasive Plant Management in Vermont

Middle school volunteers learning how to use a weed wrench from FPR staff in Richmond, VT.

The growing season for 2018 saw many projects across the state tackling the forest, field, and wetland health issue of non-native invasive plants. Below are highlights of some of these amazing local efforts. Huge thanks to everyone who is working toward making our Vermont landscapes healthier and more resilient, and protecting them for generations to come.

Habitat Hero! Student Volunteers: This year, funded by a new US Forest Service grant, VT Dept. Forests, Parks & Recreation’s Invasive Plant Program launched a new program for middle and high school groups. Students who participate in the program learn about the negative impacts invasive plants have on Vermont’s ecosystems, learn how to identify common invasive plants, and get hands-on experience removing invasive plants. The crew worked with 600 student volunteers in 2018, from 13 schools across Vermont. Between 2014-2017, the crew has worked with 2,279 volunteers (9,266 volunteer hours). Additionally, this year the crew worked on mapping, curriculum development for programs with schools, and installing interpretive panels about demonstration sites for invasive plant management in state parks.

Forest Hero! Volunteer Network: Also, part of the new grant, is an outreach “train the trainer” opportunity for members of the public called the Forest Hero! Network. In collaboration with partners like Vermont Coverts: Woodlands for Wildlife, the first training took place on October 23rd. The ten participants learned how to effectively communicate information to their communities on invasive plants. As part of the day, participants agreed to take what they learned back to their communities and are expected to complete at least one outreach event before October 2019. A follow up workshop is planned for spring to enhance the volunteers’ knowledge of field identification and control. If you are interested in taking part in the next round of this “train the trainer” opportunity (date- early April), please contact Elizabeth (see email at end of article).

Tool Loan Pilot Program Continues with Plans for Growth: In an effort to increase access to invasive plant management tools, the FPR Essex Junction office started a pilot program in 2017, loaning out weed wrenches to local organizations, municipalities, and private landowners. FPR’s Invasive Plant Program communicates with participants and organizes pick up and return dates. The loan program was used 12 times throughout 2018. The plan is to create a similar arrangement at FPR’s Rutland Office, to provide this service to a broader audience.

Richmond, VT: Since 2009, the Great Richmond Root-Out! has worked to control invasive plants on 120 acres of state-significant silver maple-ostrich fern floodplain forest; the largest remaining example of this now rare natural community on the upper Winooski River. In addition to its ecological importance, this area is also prized by the people of Richmond who use it extensively for hiking, biking, bird-watching, fishing, boating, and nature exploration. Participating lands are owned by the Town of Richmond, the Richmond Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and private landowners.

 Many volunteers have helped the Root-Out! over the years, including community members, middle and high school science classes, UVM, land trust members and more. This past year both 5th and 7th grade science classes from Camel’s Hump Middle School got very connected (Figure 37) They spent class and field time learning about floodplain ecology and they helped remove invasive plants. Thanks to their help and that of all Root-Out! volunteers, knotweed, barberry, honeysuckle and Phragmites infestations have all been shrunk by 95-99% since the program’s inception. In 2018, FPR’s Invasive Plant Program assisted by teaching Root-Out! how to work more effectively with large groups of volunteers.

Burlington, VT: The Winooski Valley Park District (WVPD) works with and relies on local schools, youth groups and other volunteer groups to manage invasive plants across their parklands. This year WVPD continued their management efforts across their parks with both staff and volunteer time.

South Burlington, VT:The City of South Burlington continued invasive plant management projects with a focus on two parks: Red Rocks Park and Wheeler Nature Park. At Red Rocks Park the city worked to remove 8 infestations of Asiatic bittersweet, 2 early detection sites of garlic mustard, and removed 900 glossy buckthorn shrubs. In Wheeler Nature Park, 209 wild parsnip plants were removed, an early detection site of garlic mustard was removed, a patch of Phragmites was cut back, and buckthorn shrubs were cut back.

Bradford, VT:The River Bend Career and Technical Center Diversified Agriculture and Natural Resources program in Bradford is taking an active role in managing the spread of invasive plant species on their school owned property and adjacent town property. The students learn how to identify the different species and the steps to mechanically control them. They learn the reasons why this is important while gaining a deeper understanding of our local woodland natural biodiversity. Students worked with FPR’s Invasive Plant Program last spring and have purchased a mechanical puller tool. They will continue to maintain an area that is relatively free of invasives while pushing INVASIVE PLANTS back in other areas that are bordering it.

Bennington, VT: The Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area for the Batten Kill Watershed (CISMA-BKW) had a successful season. In the past year, the CISMA-BKW habitat steward managed approximately 9.75 acres of the Equinox Preservation Trust, 7 acres of the adjacent Nature Conservancy Rocking Stone property, and about one acre of Japanese knotweed along Bourne Brook. In addition, the habitat steward monitored 71.8 acres of private land and 18.7 acres of public land for invasive species. Finally, the habitat steward also managed invasives at a property owned by the Green Mountain National Forest in Manchester and at the Arlington Recreation Park. Both efforts were undertaken with the help of VYCC service members. In the fall, the new habitat steward helped to plant 170 seedlings to create a riparian buffer on private land. 

Upper Valley, VT:The Upper Connecticut River Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (UCCISMA) hired a new part-time conservation coordinator this summer, spent 64.5 hours this field season on identification and treatment of Japanese knotweed and other priority species throughout the watershed. While much of the activity in 2018 focused on the NH side of the Connecticut River watershed, the CISMA is currently reaching out to the Vermont towns of Canaan and Bloomfield to try and gain their support for invasive species removal treatments. Next year the CISMA hopes to continue treatments on current sites and to begin treatments on new sites, and to increase participation in our Vermont communities.

The Nature Conservancy:TNC completed a variety of INVASIVE PLANT MANAGEMENT work across VT. Spring work included management at Williams Woods in Charlotte (volunteers spent 4 days removing garlic mustard and wall lettuce as part of a WHIP project); management at Raven Ridge in Monkton (volunteers spent 1 day pulling garlic mustard and wall lettuce along trails); management at Chickering Bog (volunteers spent 3 days pulling wall lettuce); and management at Eshqua Bog (TNC staff spent 1 day pulling wall lettuce).  Summer work included management at White River Ledges in Sharon/Pomfret (TNC staff spent 1 day completing control work on Japanese knotweed and Phragmites).  Fall work included management work at Williams Woods (volunteers spent 3 days removing woody INVASIVE PLANTS as part of a WHIP project); management at LaPlatte River Nature Area (volunteers spent 1 day removing INVASIVE PLANTS along the river, and TNC contracted with Redstart Forestry to complete follow-up work on an herbicide treatment on 50 acres on the east side of the natural area); management at Raven Ridge (volunteers spent 1 day removing woody INVASIVE PLANTS along the edge of the old field and near the beaver pond); management at Wilmarth Woods in Addison (volunteers removed woody INVASIVE PLANTS for 2 days); management at Butternut Hill in North Hero (TNC staff spent 1 day removing woody INVASIVE PLANTS); management at Black Mountain in Dummerston (TNC staff spent 1 day removing woody INVASIVE PLANTS); management at White River Ledges  (TNC staff removing woody INVASIVE PLANTS); and for the Helen W. Buckner Natural Area in West Haven, TNC hired contractors Land Stewardship, Inc. to treat woody INVASIVE PLANTS on 23 acres.

If you have a story of a local effort tackling invasive plants that you’d like to have shared in our annual highlights, please contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.spinney@vermont.gov

 

 

Article and Photo: Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

Photo caption: Middle school volunteers learning how to use a weed wrench from FPR staff in Richmond, VT.