Monday, November 24, 2008

Week of November 23, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Single invasive mussel found in Maryland

By Candus Thomson,

For the first time, Maryland waters have been invaded by an alien mussel capable of fouling public water systems, destroying native aquatic life and causing millions of dollars in damage.

A single zebra mussel was scooped from inside a water intake pipe upstream from the Conowingo Dam that spans Harford and Cecil counties by a fish survey team on the Susquehanna River. The mussel, about a half-inch in size, was sent to a Pennsylvania laboratory for positive identification.

"Finding just one doesn't make sense," said Jonathan McKnight, an invasive species expert with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "When they show up, they show up with a vengeance."

McKnight says DNR staff will post signs at Susquehanna River launching ramps to remind boaters and anglers to report any sightings and to scrub their vessels and equipment before moving them to prevent unwanted hitchhikers. Link


Scientist says he may have bacteria to tame zebra mussels

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) - A New York State Museum researcher says he has created a non-toxic alternative natural means to kill zebra mussels, the invasive aquatic species that has taken hold in New York and covers the bottom of some lakes.

Using bacteria that the mollusks can feed on in small quantities, but which will kill them if they eat too much of it, Dr. Daniel Molloy calls it "a biological pesticide."

Expected to be available next year, it will be sold by the Museum’s commercial partner, Marrone Organic Innovations, based in Davis, Calif.

Earlier this year the company received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to commercialize the pesticide. The New York State Museum received $275,000.


Invasive plants threaten Florida's native species

By Steve Patterson, The Times-Union

In sand dunes by the St. Johns River, chain saws and squirt bottles became weapons to defend Florida's ecology.

Land-clearing crews crossed Buck Island in teams, some slicing through young trees as others sprayed herbicides to kill the fresh-cut stumps. Their targets were the Jacksonville island's 5,000 shoots of saltcedar, a fast-spreading Asian plant that long ago overran the American Southwest and is emerging on the Atlantic coast.

The project was organized by the First Coast Invasive Working Group, a collection of governments and landowners trying to control an explosion of plants that aren't native to the state. In some cases, foreign plants can crowd out native plants that birds and animals use for food or shelter.

About 1.5 million acres of Florida parkland and uncounted millions of private acres are covered with non-native plants, the state Bureau of Invasive Plant Management estimated last year.

The agency, part of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, tracked almost $25 million in state, local and federal spending in 2007 to control upland plants and another $16 million to fight aquatic weeds.

The First Coast group was set up to help land managers get money for local projects and make the most of their efforts, said Trish Gramajo-St. John, the group's chairwoman. Link


Earthworms’ Underground Invasion Threatens Forest Sustainability


Earthworms have long been considered a friend to farmers and home gardeners, playing a vital role in soil quality. However, recent studies have shown that glaciated forests in North America—forests that evolved without native earthworms--now face the invasion of European earthworms from agriculture and fishing.

This underground invasion has compounding impacts on the capacity of the soil to provide nutrients and sequester carbon—an important role as the world faces global climate change.

Kyungsoo Yoo, University of Delaware assistant professor of soil and land resources, and colleagues Anthony Aufdenkampe of the Stroud Water Research Center and Cindy Hale, an ecologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth, were recently awarded a three-year, $397,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative (USDA-NRI) to study the quantitative coupling of the ecology of European earthworm invasion--specifically in Canada, New England and the Great Lakes region--with mineral chemical weathering and carbon cycling.

Prior to colonization, the glaciated areas of North America were devoid of native earthworms. European earthworms were first introduced to U.S. soils when immigrants brought crops from their native lands, harboring earthworm cocoons. Worms made their way to the edges of farmlands and to the forests.

In addition, these glaciated areas are pocked with small lakes; fishermen often dispose of unwanted live bait, infesting areas where native earthworms were not typically found. Unpaved logging roads through these regions also assisted the spread of non-native earthworms, as compacted soil on tires disperses cocoons and live earthworms.

“Gardeners and farmers all appreciate the beneficial effect of earthworms,” says Yoo, “However, there were systems where worms didn’t exist before and, as we have seen with other non-native invasions, there are ecosystem implications.”

According to Yoo, 10 to 20 years ago, hikers in Minnesota’s forests noticed changes in the leaf litter layer. They noticed that the leaf layer was rapidly disappearing over the years. The researchers understand why this was happening, as Hale’s doctoral research showed that non-native earthworms were slowly eating their way into the forest, mixing the litter layer into the mineral soils in the process.

“Soil scientists and agriculturalists recognize the benefits of mixing organic matter with the mineral soil in production agriculture,” Yoo says. “However, in native forests the leaf litter is essential to the survival of native trees’ seedlings. The litter layer provides protection for temperature changes and deer browse. As earthworms invade and consume the leaves, the layer and therefore the success of seedlings, is compromised.”

He adds, “This relationship has been singled out as one of the most important factors impacting the future sustainability of forests in the glaciated areas in the U.S.” Link


Volunteers needed at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts

Maynard, Massachusetts - Volunteers are needed to help to help clear invasive plants from Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 9 a.m. to noon.

A second session is scheduled for, Thursday, Dec. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Meet at the Hudson Road entrance to the refuge in Sudbury, about 2.7 miles west of Route 27 and just east of the Stow line.

For all refuge projects, work boots and gloves are recommended.

Please bring water, sunscreen and gloves and dress for cold weather.

Clippers, weed wrenches and saws provided. Herbicide will be used.

All dates are subject to change based on weather conditions and snow depth. Please call or e-mail in advance to confirm your participation and that the work party will take place at the time and date indicated. Contact Amber at or 978-580-0321.

For additional information about the Friends of Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge events and volunteer opportunities, go to


Deer abundance is topic of talk

Connecticut - The Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance hosted its second fall seminar on the impact of deer overabundance recently at the Weston Public Library.

Chairman Patricia Sesto, Ridgefield representative to the alliance, introduced the expert speakers, saying, “Damage to our natural areas and the consequences to other wildlife are probably the least recognized negative impacts associated with deer overabundance.”

Dr. Emile DeVito, manager of science and stewardship at New Jersey Conservation Foundation, spoke of the loss of native vegetation below the browse line of five feet and the opportunity this browse line provides for non-native vegetation.

“If you want your forests to recover,” said Dr. DeVito, “you are going to have to reduce the deer population to single digits.” Once the forest is healthy again, which could take a decade or more, the forest can support 15-20 deer per square mile.

Dr. DeVito also spoke to the need to create seed banks within the recovering forest. He recommends fencing off plots within the damaged forest and replanting those with native species to provide the desired seed source.

He spoke about the need for a multi-layered forest of shrubs and saplings in the understory and mature trees in the canopy. “The dense shade that results from these multiple layers favors native flowers and discourages non-native species,” he said, adding a diversity of plants is needed to support a diversity of wildlife.

The multiple layers also contribute to more stable soils and less stormwater runoff, according to the alliance’s release. Soil compaction from deer “traffic” and accelerated consumption of leaf litter by an invasive Asiatic earthworm were also cited as contributors to more stormwater runoff. Link


Job Opening: Invasive Species Program Coordinator

Job Type: full-time permanent position

LOCATION: Summerland Key, Florida

DATE PREPARED: November 18, 2008

SALARY: $35,000/yr + benefits

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: The GreenSweep Invasive Species Program Coordinator participates in preserve operations including the maintenance, management and development and coordination of conservation programs. This may include one or more of the following functions:

• Leads work teams and supervises staff
• Coordinates community support
• Removes exotic plant species
• Maintains budgets, assists with grant reporting and grant writing
• Maintains tools and equipment



Keith A. Bradley, Assistant Director
22601 SW 152 Ave.Miami, FL 33170
Phone: (305-547-6547 Fax: (305) 245-9797



Monday, November 17, 2008

Week of November 16, 2008

Call for Abstracts

Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s
24th Annual Symposium, Delray Beach, Florida
May 26th–29th 2009

We invite abstract submissions for contributed oral or poster presentations at the 2009 FLEPPC Annual Symposium. The meeting will be held Tuesday, May 26th through Friday, May 29th in Delray Beach, Florida, at the Marriott Hotel.

Submissions are welcome for any area of invasive plant species investigation.

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: January 15th 2009


If web access is not available, please submit abstracts to:

LeRoy Rodgers, FLEPPC Program Chair
South Florida Water Management District
3301 Gun Club Road, MS#5650, West Palm Beach, FL 33406561-682-2773 voice; 561-682-5044 fax


Milfoil spreading in Opechee, NH


The state limnologist responsible for monitoring and eradicating milfoil from the area's lakes has noted a marked increase in the amount of the invasive weed in Lake Opechee.

Jody Connor said the little lake is "one of those that fell through the cracks" because the lack of a lake organization meant the Department of Environmental Services had no formal outfit through with it could work.

Today, Connor will discuss his recent findings at a session organized by lake resident Alan Beetle, who has invited anyone with an interest in preserving the lake to join them at Patrick's Pub on Route 11 B in Gilford."

There is a growing band, and though it is not all around the lake yet, right now it's about 38 acres," Connor said.

Milfoil is a snakelike invasive species thought to have originally come from Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. It is very hardy and a very small piece of the weed that gets on a boat propeller can move to another location and begin growing.

Connor said as the clumps get heavy, they drop to the bottom of the lake and begin to root into independent plants. An over-abundance of milfoil can choke out plant species that normally grow in a lake and can at some point affect the overall health of a body of water."

We knew the lake had milfoil," Connor said about the initial discovery of the weed near the Winnipesaukee River inlet at the Lakeport Dam in the 1960s.

By 1986, a lake survey indicated "sparse" infestation near the Lakeport Dam at the inlet. Waiting for that year's drawdown, Connor said the department attempted to cover the existing milfoil with a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching the plants and encouraging their growth.

By 2000, Connor said the milfoil "had started to become locally abundant and common where the river comes in."

The latest survey, just completed six weeks ago, shows that milfoil 'has really spread."

One of the largest areas of concentration is near the initial infestation site near the Lakeport Dam where Connor said global positioning sensors and mapping show a band of milfoil about 6.8 acres in total mass. Link


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week of November 9, 2008

Updated 11/13

N.Y. looks at Vt. law to control invasive species

By Tom Mitchell, Rutland Herold

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — A key issue facing the first chairman of a new invasive species advisory committee for all of New York is whether the state would be able to adopt an exotic plant transport law similar to Vermont's, to help check the spread of invasive aquatic plants between lakes.

James Hood, communications director for the Lake George Association, has been named chairman of the newly formed New York State Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC).

"I am very excited and honored to be the first chairman of the Advisory Committee," Hood said Friday. He has already served as representative for the New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) on the committee.

The Advisory Committee, formed in the last few months, is comprised of 25 nongovernmental stakeholder groups, representing academia, industry, local government and environmental advocacy, LGA officials said.

"Not having industry representatives at the table (in the past) was a glaring weakness in previous efforts to control invasives" in the state Hood said. The wide range of representation will be crucial to developing comprehensive strategies to prevent the introduction of invasive species in water bodies and to control existing infestations, he said.

"This puts the LGA and New York state lake federation in a very advantageous position," Walt Lender, the LGA's executive director, said.

"New York's lakes have been heavily impacted by aquatic invasive species, (like Eurasian water milfoil) and now we will be able to have a say in how the state manages invasives," Lender said.

In Lake George, LGA has managed milfoil and zebra mussels for a number of years. The group began a stewardship program that implemented boat inspections at access areas that was well received last summer, Hood said.

Meg Modley, invasive species coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program in Vermont, developed the idea of using the Green Mountain State's transport law as a model and has provided guidance on the matter for them, Hood said.

Vermont's law prohibits the spread of exotic species like milfoil between lakes.A provision allows officials to write tickets for offenders who don't comply with the law. Such a penalty will be needed in New York to make a new regulation or law work there as well, Hood said.

"If one state is doing something well, we want to consider implementing that in our own plans."

The idea of having continuity in regulations between neighboring states has also had appeal in this case.

The committee will also draw on work Modley has done with the Adirondack Park Agency.

"It's not just a lake by lake issue" but transcends watershed boundaries, becoming more of a "regional issue," Hood said.

The new invasive species advisory committee will look into whether a regulation could suffice initially in New York to address aquatic plants like Eurasian milfoil or a state law would be needed.

Once committee members come up with a proposal they would likely present to the Invasives Species Council, a statewide group representing nine state agencies. The council was formed last year to help develop a strategy to deal with invasives.

"I look forward to working with the members of the Invasive Species Council, to make sure that New York is prepared to deal effectively with the huge challenges presented by invasive species," Hood said.

Currently, the new invasives committee will likely propose addressing the spread of exotic fauna like zebra mussels and other animal species through education programs rather than regulations, Hood said.

Another species the group could address is the potential for spiny water flea to move up the Champlain Canal to Lake George from Great Sacandaga Lake to the south by boat or bait bucket, Hood said.

The exotic flea collects on fishing line like gobs of jelly and can cause a clumping of the line and clog eyelets of fishing rods. Link


TVA to reduce weed control on Alabama lake

The Associated Press

GUNTERSVILLE -- A decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority to reduce its weed-control program on Lake Guntersville is drawing protests from opponents in northeast Alabama who say the move could choke tourism and hurt development.

About 300 angry residents, elected leaders and economic recruiters attended a meeting last week about the federal utility's decision to quit killing aquatic weeds around private docks and residential areas on the north Alabama reservoir.

TVA will continue spraying weeds around boat launches and other public areas. But critics said the decision to stop weed eradication work elsewhere will result in an overgrowth of weeds and a loss of tourism dollars.

"We base our tourism on fishing and outdoor activity," tourism director J.P. Parsons said. "TVA created the lake, and it's their responsibility to service the lake."

TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martucci said Monday the utility ended weed control work at most reservoirs in the 1990s.

Reducing the program at Guntersville and Lake Nickajack in Tennessee, the only two places where it continued, will save about $800,000 annually, she said. The utility decided it wasn't fair to eradicate weeds in just two lakes.

"It's a huge job that is probably not conquerable, keeping the weeds controlled," she said. "Only one person has to bring a weed in on their boat for there to be a problem."

The timing of the decision angered TVA critics already upset over a 20 percent rate increase approved last month and a decision to grant chief executive Tom Kilgore a raise of about $500,000 that could increase his incentive-driven annual pay to $3.27 million.

State Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, called the weed decision "crazy" and said it would cost local government $1 million to replace the work previously done by TVA.

"These people are mad, and they ought to be," McLaughlin said at the meeting. "Where's Marshall County and Gunters-ville going to find a million dollars? Can't you spare a million dollars to keep that river clean?"

With about 68,000 total acres of water, Lake Guntersville was covered by about 17,000 acres of milfoil and hydrilla this year, said Martucci. TVA has been treating about 1,000 acres three times a summer using chemicals and harvesting machines, he added.

While the weeds can foul boat propellers, surround docks and make swimming impossible in places, they also provide a haven for fish and have helped make the lake a popular destination for angling.

"Bass fishermen love the weeds. There are reservoirs where people do not want us to touch the weeds," Martucci said.

TVA is the nation's largest public utility and sells electricity to 159 distributors with 8.8 million consumers in Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.


Removing the mighty phragmites at Marion Lake

By Eric Shultz, The Suffolk Times

According to Lori Luscher, the phragmites invasion of Marion Lake started with a 1991 nor'easter.

"Waves brought the bay over the road into the lake, making it brackish," she said of the freshwater East Marion (New York) lake, which has no natural outlet to Orient Harbor. "Year after year, it got worse, the weeds got taller, thicker, and eventually started taking over the whole shore."

Though accounts vary of how, when and why the invasive strain of wetland weed (technically known as Phragmites australis) grew to dominate the lake, Southold Town Trustees and property owners like Ms. Luscher joined forces with the town highway department this past weekend to begin clearing the shore of the invasive stalks.

They started near the Bay Avenue bridge.

"Once the weeds took over the bridge area, the flow of water under the bridge became a concern," Ms. Luscher said. "Without flow, the lake would go stagnant and become polluted."

Ms. Luscher, representing the community of lakeside property owners, said she'd applied for an eradication grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation last year and had also applied for cutting permits with the Town of Southold and the DEC in 2006. She said the permits and a matching grant of $100,000 from the DEC all came together last month.

Bill Fonda, spokesman for the DEC, said that the powers that be in the state agency were impressed with the community group's efforts. "It is kind of unusual for any homeowner's association to come to us [for permits]," he said. "But they proved to us that they can do this."

With a year's worth of yard sales and an "awareness" booth at this year's Maritime Festival in Greenport, Ms. Luscher said community members are "getting close" to matching the grant. She said they're about $40,000 short.

"Most of the neighbors who live on the lake and surround the lake have been generous," Ms. Luscher said.

But even for the generous, the process of removing phragmites properly is time-consuming and laborious, according to Ms. Luscher, which is why the community group has hired Putnam County-based consultant and contractor Tim Miller to do the bulk of the work.

That work involves cutting the stalks down to about a foot above water level during the fall, using hedge trimmers and snips -- "No heavy duty mechanical stuff," she said. "We don't want to disturb the wildlife." -- then coming back in the spring to "wick" them.

According to Peconic Bay Keeper Kevin McAllister, wicking is the process of hand-applying a chemical that is environmentally safe (for everything but the phragmites) into the weakened stalk. The straw-like root system will then soak up the chemical and kill the weed, he said.

Comparing what Ms. Luscher and company are doing to a recent successful phragmites eradication project in Long Pond Greenbelt near Bridgehampton, Mr. McAllister says that the twofold approach to Marion Lake is good. But he says that the community group will have to maintain and monitor the site long after the invasive plants have been removed. "Phragmites will come back in," he said. "The plants thrive in nutrients, gain foothold and march across the marsh."

Ms. Luscher, a summer resident of East Marion for 30 years, said she and her neighbors are well aware of this and are in it for the long haul, which she said she hopes isn't more than two years. She said that once the phragmites are killed, they plan to replant with some native species like Hibiscus mosheutos, Baccharis halimfolia, Iva frutescanes, Rosa rugosa, Typha latifolia, Juncus effusus and Scirpus tabernaemontanii to crowd out any remaining stalks -- and to take over the phragmites' beneficial role of absorbing nutrients, which helps prevent algae blooms, according to Mr. Fonda.

"We also plan on flooding a portion of the lake, which is another proven method of eradication," Ms. Luscher said. "Once the clearing is complete, it will be up to each landowner to monitor for regrowth and periodically test areas for other methods of maintenance."

Ms. Luscher says that the entire phragmites removal project could cost up to $250,000, "depending on how far we go with it."

By removing the phragmites around the bridge, Ms. Luscher said Southold Town saved her community group about $20,000.

Southold Trustee Jill Doherty said that the town wanted to do its part in clearing the lake. She said the town also is in charge of "de-watering," or drying-out, the dead stalks on the East Marion fire department's property and transporting them up-island to be incinerated. If they're disposed of in a landfill, she said, they will begin growing again.

Ms. Doherty added that septic runoff and natural waste from geese and other animals have contributed to the nitrates that have allowed the invasive plants to proliferate in recent years.

"I grew up in East Marion," the trustee said. "We used to ice skate on the lake, surrounded by cattails -- it was beautiful. [The phragmites] have gotten out of hand." Link


Study: Separate Great Lakes, Mississippi basins

By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Connections engineered more than a century ago between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed should be changed to block the advance of invasive species that can cause irreversible damage, an environmental advocacy group says.

Separating the two basins is the only way to stop the transfer of some species, including the voracious Asian carp that is within 50 miles of Lake Michigan, says a feasibility study issued Wednesday by the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

"If you want to protect the Great Lakes, this is what you have to do. Invaders like Asian carp are unpredictable, but their effects are catastrophic and irreversible," said Joel Brammeier, Alliance vice president and lead author of the study. "You've got to remove their pathway."

Researchers fear the carp, which can grow up to 100 pounds and more than 4 feet long, could eat all the food that's available for other species in the Great Lakes ecosystem, possibly leading to the collapse of the lakes' multibillion-dollar fishing industry, Brammeier said.

Scientists say more than 150 invasive species have entered the Great Lakes, multiplying rapidly and feeding on native species or outcompeting with them for food. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to control the zebra mussel and round goby, which already have moved between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Millions also have been spent on electrical barriers across the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal south of the city to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. The Alliance says the barriers, which deliver a non-lethal jolt to fish, have been effective, but are not a long-term solution.

There are no natural connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds. More a century ago, engineers linked them with a complex network of manmade canals and existing rivers to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep waste from flowing down it to Lake Michigan, which Chicago uses for drinking water.

Possible changes include erecting concrete walls and constructing more shipping locks, according to the study. It does not make explicit recommendations, but calls on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to conduct further study.

"The EPA is very concerned about the impact of invasive species on the health of the Great Lakes. Limiting their spread is important for protecting the Lakes and we need to look at all options for controlling their movement," EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said. "We welcome suggestions from the Alliance and look forward to reading its report." Link


Volunteers Sought for Invasive Species Clearing at SVAC, Vermont, Nov. 14

MANCHESTER - On Friday, Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., a pair of experts from The Nature Conservancy, Dave McDevitt and Sharon Plumb, and as many volunteers as can be mustered, will remove invasive species from the Boswell Botany Trial.

Quietly, steadily, and over time, intruders have crept onto the Southern Vermont Arts Center's Boswell Botany Trail - the nature walk of the original Webster estate, circa 1917, and one of the Top 10 Wildflower Walks in the state according to Vermont Life - and threaten to destroy the native organisms found there. The culprits: buckthorn, honeysuckle, Asiatic bittersweet and Japanese barberry, four invasive species introduced to the area as ornamental plants that have spread precipitously to many wild areas around the state.

To help address, and to promote awareness of, the statewide challenge of non-native plant species proliferation, SVAC and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are partnering in TNC's Wise on Weeds! (WOW!) program. A growing number of businesses, schools and other organizations have signed on as WOW! sites, committed to removing invasives from their grounds in favor of native plants.

To volunteer or to get more information, call SVAC Volunteer Coordinator, Ed Cyzewski, at 362-1405, ext. 29, or drop by the Arts Center, which is just off West Road in Manchester, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Visit any time at


Volunteers for Staten Island this Saturday

On Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., you can assist with the ongoing forest restoration project at Conference House Park. Volunteers will remove invasive plant species, preventing their spread and encouraging native plant and animal habitats to recover. As needed, volunteers will plant, seed, or mark with flagging some of the native species.

The Conference House, built in the 17th Century and located at the southern most tip of New York State in Staten Island, is famous for the Peace Conference held there on September 11, 1776.

Gather at the flagpole outside the Visitors' Center at 1 p.m. Sturdy shoes and long pants are highly recommended. Gloves and tools will be provided. Tap water and restrooms are available at the Visitors' Center.

Because the work will take place in several areas of the park, anyone arriving late may have difficulty finding the group, so RSVP if you plan to attend. Call Cheri Brunault at 718-390-8021, or e-mail at This event is rain or shine.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Week of November 2, 2008

Suffolk County targets invasive aquatic plants in Yaphank


By autumn, little remains of the thick green carpet of plant life that covers Yaphank's Upper and Lower lakes for much of the year. But the weedy culprits - cabomba and variable leaf watermilfoil - are still here, washing in clumps over the dam at Mill Road or waiting, submerged, to bloom in spring.

Each year, dismayed residents here and at Canaan Lake in North Patchogue have watched the rampant growth of invasive aquatic plants turn these popular fishing spots into virtual swamps.

"The whole lake is just one mat of weeds," said Robert Kessler, an Upper Lake resident and member of the Coalition to Save the Yaphank Lakes. "By June you can almost walk across the lakes."

Now Suffolk County has taken up the problem with a $200,000 study on the best way to eradicate the pesky plants. The study should be completed sometime next year, with work expected to begin on a pilot project at Canaan Lake in 2010.

Options include dredging, dosing the water with herbicide, using a machine harvester to remove the plants or some combination of those techniques. Some have even proposed dismantling the dams that created the lakes in the first place - something Kessler and other Yaphank residents oppose.

Each method has drawbacks. And because rivers run through all three lakes, any action taken there would likely have consequences downstream.Nineteen-acre Upper Lake and 25-acre Lower Lake sit on the Carmans River, which the state has designated a scenic and recreational river. The main stem of the Patchogue River flows through 26-acre Canaan Lake, which is on the state's impaired waterways list because of nitrogen pollution."

It's a really complicated situation, because you're balancing the needs of the residents living on the lake and the issues they are facing, in addition to the ecological and financial issues," said Kathy Schwager, an invasive species ecologist with the Nature Conservancy on Long Island. The Conservancy was part of a coalition of concerned residents, environmental advocates and government officials that researched the issue for more than a year.

At times, the weeds cover 70 percent to 90 percent of the surface of the affected Brookhaven lakes, said Charles Guthrie, regional fisheries manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Fish still swim there, but the overgrowth makes it hard to get to the water."

It has really ruined the recreational resource that the community of Yaphank and many others have enjoyed for hundreds of years, since the river was dammed," said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert.

Last year Kepert set up the Carmans River task force to address the problem at Upper and Lower lakes. The group assembled detailed information on the lakes' plant life and other physical characteristics, and reviewed how other communities have dealt with cabomba and watermilfoil.

In Manorville, the Peconic River Sportsman's Club had tried using a mechanical harvester to remove cabomba from its private 45-acre lake, but the lake was too big for one machine to make much of a dent, Guthrie said.

The club had better luck with an herbicide known as fluridone. But that alone is unlikely to solve the problem in Yaphank and North Patchogue. The herbicide pellets have to remain in place for one to three months, a tricky proposition in a free-flowing river. And fluridone doesn't kill watermilfoil, which requires a different chemical called triclopyr. While both herbicides are approved for use in New York state, DEC regulations don't permit them to be used at the same time, Guthrie said.

Dave Thompson of Trout Unlimited, a fishing conservation group, says removing the dams would help because the plants don't thrive in cool, fast-moving water. It would also create more habitat for native brook trout. Residents have resisted that option, saying they want to restore the lakes' past recreational use. Article


Town of Esopus purchases weed harvester

Projects in Columbia and Ulster counties (New York) are among funding awards announced under the state Environmental Protection Fund's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

All grants are awarded on a 50-50 matching basis.

Receiving funding locally are:

* Town of Esopus, $59,088 to purchase a mechanical aquatic weed harvester to improve the town's aquatic vegetation control program, thereby preserving access to public beaches, use of non-motorized boating facilities and fishing areas of the river. Article


Invading bugs ravage Georgia's forests

By Charles Seabrook for the Journal-Constitution

In Georgia’s rugged mountain forests and its lush maritime woods on the coast, ecological tragedies of great consequence are unfolding —- alarming die-offs of native trees from exotic insect pests.

On the coast, it is the red bay tree —- and possibly the sassafras —- that’s succumbing. Driving around Jekyll Island the other day, I saw scores of red bays dead or dying. I saw no healthy ones. The same situation is true for red bays in other maritime forests all along the Southeast coast. Killing them —- and threatening them with extinction —- is a relentless disease called laurel wilt.

Some reports indicate that the malady also may be spreading to our beloved sassafras trees, which are kin to red bays.

The disease is caused by a fungus spread by the exotic red bay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), a native of Asia. The beetle likely entered the country in wood packing material with cargo imported at Port Wentworth, Ga. Red bays began dying in Georgia and South Carolina in 2003.

“All of Georgia’s coastal counties now have confirmed laurel wilt, and the disease is moving northward in South Carolina, southward in Florida, and inland at an alarming rate,” said James Johnson, a tree disease expert with the Georgia Forestry Commission.

No known treatment exists, he notes. Landowners, loggers and others are asked to leave dead red bay trees in the woods and not salvage them for logs, chips or firewood.

Red bays are native to the Coastal Plain region from Virginia to eastern Texas. They are ecologically and culturally important, although of minor commercial timber value. Red bay trees provide fruit for songbirds, turkeys and quails. Deer and black bears browse on the foliage and fruits. The caterpillars of the palamedes swallowtail butterfly require red bay leaves for development.

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Mountain trees

In North Georgia’s mountains —- and throughout much of the Southern Appalachians —- it is the magnificent hemlock that’s dying by the tens of thousands. The cause is a tiny, exotic, aphidlike insect known as the hemlock wooly adelgid, also a native of Asia. It sucks the sap at the base of hemlock needles, which die and fall off. The tree then starves to death.

Hardly any area of the 750,000-acre Chattahoochee National Forest is untouched by the voracious pest. Dead and dying hemlocks —- large and small —- are now common sights along mountain streams, slopes and trails. Scientists say the hemlock, a major component of Southern Appalachian forests, could go the way of another once-common forest tree, the American chestnut, which was virtually wiped out by an exotic blight during the first half of the last century and has never recovered.

A sliver of good news is that special chemical treatments done by trained arborists can help hemlocks withstand adelgid infestations. The treatment is helping save some hemlocks in homeowners’ yards and at some forest campgrounds.

But for the vast majority of hemlocks in the forest, the treatment is impractical. About the only hope —- slim at best —- for the forest hemlocks is imported beetles that prey on the adelgid. Three Georgia institutions —- the University of Georgia, Young Harris College and North Georgia State College and University —- are raising the beetles in special laboratories for release into the forest. But funding is critical. The Georgia ForestWatch organization ( is trying to raise funds for the labs. Article