Monday, January 28, 2008

Week of January 27, 2008

Updated 1/31/08

Report calls for more united effort to halt spread of invasive species

By Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake Bay Journal

In 2004, the snakehead, a voracious aquatic predator, managed to make its way into the Potomac River, apparently released by an aquarium owner.

For the last two years, the spiderlike Chinese mitten crab has turned up in the Chesapeake and been reported in other places along the East Coast. The crab is suspected of having hitched a ride to the Bay in the ballast tank of a cargo ship.

And last summer, the zebra mussel-famed for wreaking havoc throughout the Great Lakes-was reported for the first time in Pennsylvania's portion of the Susquehanna River. It is believed to have been carried into a reservoir on a recreational boat.

Those are the latest in a string of aquatic invasions that date back to the earliest European settlers. Without aggressive action by states, they are likely to continue, a recent report warns.

But the region's laws and policies to hold back the tide of nonnative fish, plants and animals are highly fragmented, hindering efforts to provide a unified effort in keeping potentially harmful species out of the Bay and its watershed, according to the report, "Halting the Invasion in the Chesapeake Bay," from the Environmental Law Institute.

The report cautions that federal funding and support to lead efforts to combat the invaders "are unlikely to materialize," making state leadership essential. That means states need to go much further in both coordinating existing regulations and in imposing new measures such as regulating ballast discharges from oceangoing ships, requiring the cleaning of recreation boats and limiting the importation and sale of exotic species, the report said. Full Article The full report is available at the Environmental Law Institute website, .


Worms: Wonderful or wicked?

Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghampton, New York

Earthworms are considered a gardener's best friend. Their burrowing helps aerate the soil and the results of their digestive efforts enrich the soil with organic matter and plant nutrients. So what's not to like about worms?

Scientists have found that worms are harming some forest ecosystems, and may even be pests in few garden and agricultural situations. To understand why worms are not always welcome, it's helpful to take a look at the history of worms in this part of the world.

The forests that now cover much of the northern United States developed after the last ice age ended, approximately 12,000 years ago. The soil on which these forests grew contained a complex mix of soil organisms from bacteria to millipedes, but there were no earthworms. Many of the native soil organisms are decomposers that slowly break down the layers of fallen leaves, dead wood and other plant material to help enrich the soil. Trees, wildflowers and other forest plants evolved along with these soil organisms in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

When European explorers and settlers arrived, they inadvertently brought European earthworms with them in the soil that was used as ship ballast or potting soil for plants. The agricultural activities of settlers helped spread worms, and these invaders from Europe thrived in the once wormless North American soils. Full Article


Florida volunteers round up air potatoes

By DAYNA MALEK, Special to The Sun

Its long unmerciful vines curl and twine through innocent trees, wrapping around its towering prey, suffocating its victims. But now in the dead of winter, when it lies shriveled and dry, it has met its match: a volunteer with gloves and a bucket.

The vines have no where to crawl to; all that is left is surrender. On Saturday morning in cold, rainy weather, more than 900 volunteers gathered at 33 sites across Gainesville to embark on the task of rounding up as many of the intrusive air potato plants as possible - all part of the Ninth Annual Great Air Potato Roundup.

Strategically organized by the City of Gainesville, Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Nature Operations Division, the event, according to program coordinator Sally Wazny, gives the community a chance to come together to work to get rid of the air potato, an invasive plant that has taken over in many areas of Gainesville. Full Article


University of Rhode Island students search for invasive species

By Lindsay Lorenz, University of Rhode Island

While most University of Rhode Island students were working on their tans or part-time jobs, senior Rebecca Allen spent her summer making a splash in the ecosystem. Through URI's Coastal Fellows Program, an initiative that aims to engage undergraduates in environmental issues, Allen took a paid internship with Save The Bay, a local environmental group, which focuses its efforts on the Narragansett Bay.

The project is a follow-up to a similar survey conducted by the group in 2000. From May to August, Allen and another intern conducted visits to 11 docks scattered from Providence to Bristol, spending 20 hours a week examining organisms that have claimed the docks as their habitat."Our objective was to see what new and potentially harmful species might be showing up in the bay," Allen said in a press release. "These non-native species could be taking over the habitats of native species and offsetting the natural balance in the bay. The project was the first step in determining what is here and where they are coming from so we can eventually do something about them." Full Article


Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee; Extension of Submission Deadline

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, National Invasive Species Council.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of the Interior, on behalf of the interdepartmental National Invasive Species Council, proposes to appoint new members to the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC). The Secretary of the Interior, acting as administrative lead, is requesting nominations for qualified persons to serve as members of the SAC.

DATES: The submission deadline for nominations has been extended. All must now be postmarked by February 13, 2008. ADDRESSES: Nominations should be sent to Lori Williams, Executive Director, National Invasive Species Council (OS/NISC), Regular Mail: 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240; Express Mail: 1201 Eye Street, NW., 5th Floor, Washington, DC 20005. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelsey Brantley, Program Analyst, at (202) 513-7243, fax: (202) 371-1751, or by e-mail at


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week of January 20, 2008

Brookhaven Town (New York) Invests $$ In Aquatic Habitats

By: Barbara LaMonica, Suffolk Life

The Brookhaven Town Board (Suffolk County, New York) recently authorized a resolution appropriating approximately $1.24 million for aquatic habitat restoration in the town. John Turner, director of Brookhaven Town's Department of Environmental Protection, said funding for the project will come from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund. "This will address a number of things relative to maintaining and restoring the Carmans and Swan rivers, where, for each, there will be aquatic species inventory and control work that will be done," Turner explained.

"We will be doing aquatic species inventory work, but there has been no decision on just how we will eradicate the aquatic invasive [plants]," Turner said. Full Article


Coalition Fights To Save Yaphank Lakes (Suffolk County, New York)

By:Barbara LaMonica, Suffolk Life

The Carolina fanwort, otherwise known as the cabomba weed, and variable leaf watermilfoil, also known as Myriophyllum heterophyllum, are the culprits. Solutions to putting a lid on these aquatic invasive species include the use of Sonar herbicide, or removing the four centuries-old dams that were placed in the Carmans River which, over time, have formed the upper and lower lakes in Yaphank. The dams are located along the upper sections of the river at Upper Mill Pond, Lower Mill Pond, Southaven Park and Sunrise Highway. Removing the dams would allow the Carmans River to flow faster. Representatives of the Coalition to Save the Yaphank Lakes are concerned, however, that removing the dams would make the lakes they have come to know and enjoy all but disappear. Freshwater and tidal portions of the Carmans River support more than 40 species of fish, including brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch, white perch, American eel and carp. Robert Kessler, co-founder of the coalition, along with his wife, Audrey, says the mission of the group is to "restore, protect, preserve, and clean up the lakes" by working with intergovernmental representatives and other entities in order to accomplish this goal without removing the dams. John Turner, Brookhaven Town's director of environmental protection, confirmed that removing the dams would result in the upper and lower lakes receding, which would, over time, reveal the appearance of marshlands. Turner, who has not yet rendered his recommendations on the most effective way to eradicate the invasive species, said that there are options that will be taken into account before a decision is made."There are clear benefits to removing the dams, because you would eliminate the invasive species problem, and you re-establish free-flowing cold water, and you would restore the river's natural course from centuries ago," Turner explained. "On the negative side, this is not just a scientific issue, but a cultural issue as well, because it affects property values, and residents have a scenically beautiful view of the river, and if the impoundments that have been there for many, many decades are removed, the lakes would recede." Full Article

Monday, January 14, 2008

Week of January 13, 2008

Seaway plans new rules to combat invasive species

Ocean-going ships may face tougher regulations in 2008 as the St. Lawrence Seaway tries to stop any more invasive species from reaching U.S. waters. The Seaway Development Corporation wants to require ships to flush ballast tanks containing only small amounts of water or sediment with saltwater in an area 200 nautical miles from any North American shore before entering the Seaway; and submit to an increased number of ship inspections, performed in Montreal to measure the salinity levels of their tanks to make sure there's enough salt to kill invasive species. Full Article


Invasive beetle attacks redbay trees in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 13 A beetle imported from Asia is spreading around the southeast United States, leaving dead and dying redbay trees (Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng.) in its wake.

The redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) is believed to have entered the country through Savannah, Ga., in 2002, probably in a wood pallet or packing case. It has spread into the Carolinas and south to Florida, where it was spotted for the first time last summer in Brevard County in central Florida, Florida Today reports.

The beetle produces a fungus that spreads throughout a tree, eventually killing it. The fungus nourishes more generations of beetles. In Asia, scientists say, the beetle usually attacks only diseased or dying trees. But in the United States, it goes after healthy ones.

The redbay is an important tree in Florida's coastal forests. The beetle has also attacked avocado trees, raising fears for one of the state's important crops. Copyright 2008 by UPI. Full Article

Monday, January 7, 2008

Week of January 6, 2008

PA Game Commission to draft wild boar regulations

The Associated Press, HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Game Commission is developing regulations to allow the hunting of wild boars during certain seasons. Commission Executive Director Carl Roe says the regulations are in response to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that classified wild boars as protected animals. Before the ruling, the commission had no regulatory oversight for them. Roe says wild boars aren't native to the state and are classified as an invasive species by the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council. Breeding populations are believed to exist in Bedford and Cambria counties, where pregnant females and young have been seen and killed. Before the ruling, hunters had been permitted to kill them. Now, they may not be killed until the commission develops regulations. Full Article


Editorial: New York State effort on invasive species is simple step in a complex issue

The Buffolo News - The First Law of Ecology, formulated by biologist Garrett Hardin, is, “We can never do merely one thing.”

In the web of life that surrounds and sustains us, it is not possible to change only one thing, to add or subtract one species, to raise or lower the levels of one chemical or nutrient, without a resulting cascade of events that will always be difficult, if not impossible, to predict.

Allow, however, two predictions about one human action that has been taken by the State of New York: The creation of an Office of Invasive Species within the Department of Environmental Conservation is a good idea. And it has been given a nearly impossible job.

As Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer noted in announcing the creation of the four-person office, varieties of flora and fauna that migrate into various corners of New York can have a devastating impact on the biospheres into which they move. Although species have wandered on their own throughout time, human activity has made the relocations more abrupt and damaging.

Transported in everything from raw lumber to oceangoing ballast tanks, insects, plants and mollusks can quickly upset the long-standing ecological balance of their new abodes, destroying forests, starving streams and spreading viruses.

Action by government is necessary. But it will always be difficult. Actions to remove a non-native species by poisoning it, introducing natural enemies or simply picking the things up and carting them off in bushel baskets can have unintended and unpleasant side-effects on the creatures and plants that belong there.

The DEC is already pressuring the federal government to adopt a rule that would require ocean-going ships to clean out their ballasts before entering U.S. waterways. And a state council of interested agencies, scholars, businesses and conservation groups has begun work on sharing information.

The public has two responsibilities in this effort. The first is to be patient, to understand that even when an invasive species is discovered and documented, it will be no simple task to remove it in a way that does not cause more damage than the interloper itself wrought.

The second is to report observations of possible invasive species to the DEC so that it can track their spread and target its actions accordingly.

These are not like human invasions that can be repeled, but more like diseases that must be treated and managed, with great care and patience. Link


A Guide to the Control and Management of Invasive Phragmites, by Michigan DNR


Opinion: Romney would make best choice for Great Lakes

By JOHN NEVIN, Detroit Free Press

Traveling up I-75 through northern Michigan toward the Mackinac Bridge, a sign for the DNR Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center always catches my eye.

In the 1960s, MacMullan was head of conservation and natural resources for Gov. George Romney. Called the "fiercest conservationist" ever to hold the post, MacMullan made the bold decision to stock salmon and launch the sport fishing industry in the Great Lakes, now a $4.5-billion enterprise that supports thousands of jobs. With MacMullan's help, Romney's successor, Gov. William Milliken, fought successfully for the Michigan Environmental Protection Act -- a model for national action.

With visionaries like Romney, MacMullan and Milliken, Michigan has always been a conservation leader.

Mitt Romney grew up in that tradition and has a firsthand appreciation of how important the Great Lakes are to Michigan's high quality of life. Romney knows that Michigan's ecology and economy depend on healthy Great Lakes and clean water that is safe for drinking, beaches that are safe for swimming, and fish that are safe for eating.

As Michigan's economy struggles today, Mitt Romney understands that cleaning up the Great Lakes can be the key to unleashing a new era of growth and job creation.

With Romney in the White House, we would see a strong commitment to making the health of the Great Lakes a national priority. He should work to consolidate the more than 140 different Great Lakes-related programs scattered across 10 federal departments under one agency whose chief reports directly to the president.

Other key priorities include:

• Preventing diversions: With lake levels approaching record lows, Michigan cannot afford to let the Great Lakes be diverted to thirsty states outside the basin. That's why Mitt Romney supports Great Lakes governors in their efforts to prohibit diversions, encourage conservation and enact sustainable water use standards. Romney believes that our governor must retain the right to veto diversions that threaten the Great Lakes.

• Stopping invasive species: More than 180 invaders from around the world now call the Great Lakes home, wreaking havoc on natural systems. Since most invaders arrive in ballast tanks of ocean-going vessels, Romney supports adoption of tough standards to keep alien species from getting in to hurt the lakes, while allowing vital commerce to continue on the lakes.

• Cleaning up toxic hotspots: From the Detroit River to Saginaw Bay to Torch Lake in the Upper Peninsula, there are 14 areas on the Great Lakes in Michigan where the legacy of pollution continues to threaten the health of people and wildlife. Romney believes the cleanup of these toxic hotspots has been far too slow, bogged down by bureaucracy, legal wrangling, endless planning and lack of resources. Romney will advocate a new approach that brings everyone to the table to develop new funding mechanisms, set clear lines of accountability, and agree to specific timelines for restoring the health of the Great Lakes.

In contrast to Romney's Great Lakes pedigree, does Michigan really want a president whose closest connection to the Great Lakes is flying over Sandusky on trips from New York City to Hollywood? Or a president whose water-starved home state in the Southwest covets Great Lakes water? Or a president who hails from a Southern state where the biggest lake is a puddle compared to our Great Lakes?

Mitt Romney is the only sure bet to restore, protect and sustain our Great Lakes. Article


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Week of December 30, 2007

Happy New Year!

Invasive plants and animals taking hold in Rhode Island waters

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) —Invasive plants and animals that can damage the environment and cost millions of dollars to control have increasingly taken hold in Rhode Island waters. A survey by the state Department of Environmental Management found that 79 percent of the state's freshwater bodies have been tainted by at least one invasive species. "This was just a survey to find out the distribution of invasive species, and they're everywhere," said Katie DeGoosh, a freshwater biologist at the DEM. There are other signs of problems, too. Last year, the Rhode Island Country Club in Barrington spent $6 million on dredging and reconstruction as it removed reed phragmites, an invasive species. State officials say they expect new invasive species from other states to continue to stream into Rhode Island's lakes, rivers and other bodies. Full Article


2008-2012 National Invasive Species Management Plan -- Draft for Public Comment (PDF 143 KB) (Dec 20, 2007) All comments must be received by close of business on Feb 11, 2008 -- see Federal Register Notice for more information.


The Noble, Gentle Swan Is Anything But, to Some

By THOMAS KAPLAN, New York Times

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — Known for gliding along local waterways with statuesque grace, the mute swan is rarely thought of as an environmental hazard. But wildlife experts say that the swan’s elegant facade conceals an ecological menace that devours shoreline vegetation, scares away other waterfowl and can even attack humans. The bird is now a target of a campaign to reduce its numbers in Connecticut's delicate coastline habitats. The leaders of the effort are conservationists, including the Connecticut Audubon Society, which in the coming months will intensify a campaign to urge state officials to control the swans’ population, which stands at about 1,100. Full Article


Kudzu may be a major air polluter

By Brian McNeill,

The vine that ate the South has a nasty case of gas. Kudzu - the ubiquitous vine that covers shrubbery, trees, telephone poles and anything else in its path - may be pumping significant levels of pollution into the region’s air. University of Virginia researcher Manuel Lerdau and State University of New York scientist Jonathan Hickman believe that kudzu is emitting sizable amounts of ground-level ozone - potentially increasing smog, aggravating respiratory ailments and quickening the pace of global climate change. Full Article


Montgomery County, MD Plans to Expand Eradication Efforts in Parks

By Lori Aratani Washington Post Staff Writer

It sounds like the title of a bad B-movie: Alien Plant Invaders. But in Montgomery County, Maryland, and communities across the country, the problem of alien plants -- also known as nonnative invasive species -- is one that is being taken seriously.

County officials have allocated an increasing amount of money to help combat the problem of nonnative invasive species, which crowd out or kill native plants in local parks. Since 2006, the county has almost doubled the amount it spends on efforts to get rid of the pests. In fiscal 2008, the county will spend $125,000 on eradication efforts. But a significant gap remains. That funding level enables workers to tackle only 350 of the estimated 33,000 threatened acres of county parkland. Full Article