Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Week of March 1, 2009

Updated 3/5

Open Letter to The Nature Conservancy #1

By Steve Young, invasives volunteer
Arlington County
Posted at http://plantwhacker.blogspot.com

Attacks on invasives efforts are going on at every level from the global and national down to the local, as here in Arlington. I can't find a public announcement directly from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), but email traffic shows that they have made the internal decision to disband their Global Invasive Species Team effort and fire all those folks in a few months. Arg. Here is the letter I have just finished and will post tomorrow.

February 27, 2009

Mark Tercek, President and CEO
The Nature Conservancy
4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203-1606

Dear Mr. Tercek:

I have been a member of The Nature Conservancy since 1981. No, certainly I am not one of your biggest donors, but I have been a faithful member and I have believed in TNC’s work and given what I can. For all this time I have been of the impression that the mission of the Conservancy is to conserve nature. Apparently, I am mistaken. Recently I learned that TNC is disbanding its Global Invasive Species Team. I must have missed the survey and the process by which TNC consulted with its members before taking such a step, when invasive species are widely viewed as the second-greatest threat to biodiversity. I will forego the lecture on invasives since the scientific literature is extensive and compelling.

Apparently I also missed some process by which TNC repurposed its mission into something other than what I believed in. As my colleagues in the movement to fight invasive species will attest, the GIST has been an important and effective force in mobilizing efforts all over the world to conserve nature on the ground. I myself have found the GIST web site a highly useful resource for my volunteer work on invasives right here in Arlington, Virginia.

As I exited the Metro station in Ballston every evening and looked at TNC Headquarters across the street, I used to feel pride in TNC and in my membership. Now, I am deeply disappointed. Unless TNC reconsiders its decision and restores its support for all the invasives work, this will be the last year I am a member. I hate to end it after 28 years. But if TNC no longer exists to conserve nature, including fighting the devastating impact of invasives, then it is time for me to move on. I realize that you won’t care about my concerns and my decision as perhaps you would if I were a celebrity or a big-dollar donor, but I hope this letter gives you and your staff some pangs, anyway. Now that I think about it, can I have my money back? I’d like to give it to an organization that is conserving nature. But you can keep the interest.


Steve Young, Invasives volunteer, Arlington County


Open Letter to The Nature Conservancy #2

From: ipetrus.blogspot.com

Roger Milliken, Jr., President
Baskahegan Company
Cumberland, Maine

Chairman of the Board
The Nature Conservancy

19 February 2009


This is an open letter written to express concern about the decision to end the work of the TNC Global Invasive Species Team. The loss of this team exacerbates the losses of natural areas and their ecosystem services to the arrival and establishment of invasive species. From the negative impacts on regulating services such as clean air and erosion control to services which include habitat protection and enhancement through resource and raw material production to informing services such as recreational use, the work of the team focused efforts to encourage a wide range of disparate stakeholders to find common ground. Quietly without fanfare your team provided a focus nationally for wide ranging efforts to stem the destructive spread of invasive species.

Invasive species are a symptom of a larger challenge, the survivability of our culture and of our current expectation for life on this planet. Currently there are groups who excel at raising awareness of other crises, but invasive species issues have been for so long centrists’ issues of insiders that no one actually notices that there is any urgency. There other major issues brewing which share a similar fate, such as the increase in world population over the rate of food production yields. Boring and seemingly non controversial, with no champions of notoriety in tow, invasive species issues slumber in the cloudy sub consciousness of our public policy attic.

Without champions at a national level, there are no funds. Without vocal demands for extreme action, there are no champions; the issues of invasive species are not glamorous. Scary perhaps, but not enough for the big time celebrities which we need to fire us up as we need the celebrity stamp of approval. Invasive species are a slow fire taking place just below our daily time horizons, too slow to make an impact until too late to stop. We expect as inevitable that kudzu will cost two states 500 million dollars annually, and then we wonder why our states are going broke. But we do nothing, we say nothing, and we learn nothing, because other issues are more important having been identified for us by the chic of the moment, by trend setters of style.

We are engaged in a public policy battle on climate change without understanding that invasive species are linked at the hip to the issue. We speak of carbon negative landscapes without knowing that invasive plants make, in general, wonderful carbon sinks. Complex webs of interactions take too much time to digest, and we have no time because we are in a hurry to get to the next new thing, and therefore wind up paying for the old thing which we failed to understand in the first place. Too hard for us to assess and respond in time; too hard to prove a negative, we build costly prisons after the fact ,just as we allow invasives to establish themselves and then deal with the expense later as if they were always a problem though we knew it cheaper to react early thereby deflecting or avoiding the coming crisis.

Our political systems work by catering to extremes; solutions driven successfully from the consensus center receive no attention and with invasive species it is no different. Successful collaboration with diverse stakeholders has led to complacency and even malaise. We move quietly towards a center, while loading future costs one upon another. 22 million acres of ash trees are dead and gone, and now a few impacted residents of the Midwest wonder why, and more practically how they will afford to cut the dead trees down, as all the while the general warning went unheeded. Some say we cannot predict well enough to protect, and convince us that it is better not to try. This is the mantra that said we could not go to the moon or cure polio and were wrong.

Invasive species are crippling the environment which provides us things we need to live: clean air, soil for food, clean water, medicines, and recreational release to name a few. Invasive species are giant hammer blows of a 900 pound canary singing in a mine, tolling for the future, warning of the change which is coming. Surrounded by so much quiet desperation, we teeter on the edge of inaction unwilling to assume one more crucial issue and so we shunt invasive species to the does-not-matter-compared-to-the-everything-else-we-must-solve arena.

But the failure of our ecosystem infrastructure will be costly whether we acknowledge it or not, and ignoring invasive species will simply pass costs on to repair and maintenance until we can no longer afford to clear our canals of the water hyacinth that can curtail our transportation of goods, or until the citrus greening removes the last orange juice tree. Do we truly believe that hardwood trees, the oaks of North America are not important as a pathogen begins to take them down on the west coast? What price to lose elms and chestnuts and maples and ash and then oaks? What tree do the un-aroused suggest take the place of all that is lost? What price to pay for cooling when the hardwoods are gone?

The homogenization of the world is refreshing at first, for we can go anywhere and find McDonalds knowing that our first meal will taste the same with no surprises. But who will visit Alaska to see salmon runs with no fish, waterways covered by Lythrum, a flower readily visible in the backyards of over 24 states of the lower 48? We want a green English landscape in the desert, but after the initial view did we actually travel to the desert to see Windsor palace or did we come to see the diversity of our planet and to recognize the power of this diversity? Our activities from trade to style encourage the introduction of species much as our city development encourages the introduction of Starbucks. We trade familiarity for uniqueness in order to get efficiency through predictability. We want this sameness because it makes us comfortable. And we are paying a price which so far we are willing to pay.

But the piper will be paid. Our system of systems that regulates life on earth will increase the costs of this homogenization until we cannot pay, much as an evening of over eating and drinking will cause a payment to be rendered of the system so abused. We expect our marketplace providers of goods for consumption to lower costs and encourage them to dismiss or not consider the environmental assessment. We do not place a price on shipping containers coming in without inspection for lack of funding and for time considerations, while we spend billions looking for grenades and bombs. We blithely ignore an unidentified ant, which loves to eat electrical wiring and is headed for Houston Space Flight Center. Rather than paying to deal early and cheaply we will suffer a five minute sound bite of recrimination when we have to move the Space Flight Center, spray it with toxins or encase it in ant proof new buildings or loose its wiring to an invasive species.

Why have a plan when we can couch the inevitable in terms of our inadequacy of knowledge, an endless loop of where is the science. We are still waiting for the complete science behind the loss of the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters when we could have done something we found reasons to delay, and now we find reason to move on as if we have lost nothing off importance. We accept the destruction of our landscapes because we have become landscape illiterate. Isolated in our silos, totally depended on our urban system services, we have forgotten that these same services are built upon the foundation of the ecosystem services whose loss we no longer cry for. We have forgotten the lessons of Aldo Leopold; perhaps we never learned.

This we need an effort such as your GIST. Surely the resources can be found to continue to protect our environment by keeping the Global Invasive Species Team in place.


Hunters shrink New Jersey's wild boar population

by Brian Murray, The Star-Ledger

They are cunning and ferocious, but the mysterious feral pigs of New Jersey were no match for the state's top predators: hunters.

State wildlife officials report that 56 of the bristly-coated swine -- more than half the estimated population -- were killed in December and January in the first New Jersey feral pig hunt in the wilds of Gloucester County.

The hunt was the second phase of a long-term plan by the state to wipe out the free-ranging hogs known worldwide as the ecological menace Sus scrofa.

"We still don't know how big the population is, but we hope the hunters got most of them," said Lawrence Herrighty of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, adding, "We are going to attempt to continue shooting and trapping the pigs ourselves." Link


NYSDEC rep to discuss invasive fish species

The strange and predatory Northern snakehead fish, whose discovery last year in the lower Hudson Valley alarmed environment watchers and anglers, will be the topic of an illustrated lecture by fisheries expert Michael Flaherty on Thursday at the State University College at Oneonta.

"Northern Snakehead Eradication: Sacrifice for the Common Good," will be presented at 4:30 p.m. in Room 211 Science I on the SUNY Oneonta campus. The public is welcome to this free program by the regional fisheries manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Region 3. [Date not provided]


MA towns to decide on Laurel Lake weed control policy

By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff

LEE, MA — A decision on the use of herbicides for the next three years in Laurel Lake will have to wait until April.

A joint hearing of the Lee and Lenox conservation commissions for a three-phased invasive-weed management plan by the Laurel Lake Preservation Association was continued Monday night, as commission members sought further information on the group's long-term plans and the environmental impact of the herbicide they are seeking to use.

The group's proposal calls for the use of the herbicide Diquat to reduce heavy patches of invasive aquatic plants, continued hand-pulling of weeds and a drawdown of the lake in winter months to freeze and kill weeds along the shore.

The group, which is a private nonprofit organization of local residents and users of the lake, has used hand-pulling to deal with the new species in recent years, but said the time and cost incurred by that technique are unsustainable for the organization.

The need to use herbicides, according to Preservation Association representatives, is the massive increase of Eurasian milfoil, an invasive species that has doubled in acreage since 2002, covering more than 60 acres of the 170-acre lake.

"All we have talked about is the short-term, and we haven't put it in the bigger context of how we solve the problem," said Timothy Flanagan, of the Lenox Conservation Commission.

Flanagan said he would like to see what the group plans to do beyond using the chemical for three years, and to look at the causes of the milfoil, including runoff from roads, farms and septic systems.

Members of each commission said they would like to see the preservation group present a master plan that follows the Department of Environmental Preservation watershed maintenance program.

A number of citizens in attendance raised concerns over the use the herbicides in the lake. Some said they had concerns about the impact to some of the lake's invertebrates, while others said they have swam there for years and don't want to see "poison" in the water.

Marc Bellaud, who presented the proposal on behalf of the preservation group, said the chemical has been approved by both the state and federal environmental agencies, and is used widely across the country in lakes and rivers.

"It's probably used in dozens — if not hundreds — of water bodies each year," said Bellaud.
Bellaud noted that in the lakes his agency works with, the herbicide has decreased the level of invasive species each year, while not impacting the native ones.

The hearing will resume at the Lenox Town Hall on April 2.


St. Petersburg College has massive weeding job

SEMINOLE, FL — Officials at St. Petersburg College knew they'd have to clear out a few invasive plants when they decided to build a wildlife habitat and environmental center on the Seminole campus.

But "a few" has turned out to be an extensive clearing that has passers-by and neighbors turning their heads and wondering if the wetlands are being demolished to make way for a dormitory or some other college building.

"That is not demolition," said Jim Olliver, provost of the Seminole campus. "We're removing the exotic invasives. … This is an enhancement to the site."

The college called in experts from Pinellas County to identify the bad plants and to help obtain a $167,836 grant from the Florida Bureau of Invasive Plant Management to pay for the clearing.
Debbie Chayet, a grants specialist from the county's culture, education and leisure department, agreed that the 63- to 65-acre site does appear to be decimated.

"The area's got a lot of invasives in it, unfortunately," Chayet said. "It may look like a lot's been done but we've been very careful to make sure only the invasive species have been hit."

Chayet said 28 invasive plant species were found on the property, including Brazilian peppers, chinaberry trees and Chinese tallow. "It was a pretty diverse amount of invasives," she said.

But farther back, she said, "some really nice native vegetation" can be found, including oak trees and orchids. Those are the kind of plants the college and county want to encourage. They're hoping that the clearing, which should last through the next few months, will do that by removing the shady canopy that's choking out sun-loving native species.

The prospect for success seems good. Chayet said that in some cleared areas, native plants like maples and elderberries are already sprouting.

The return of the native plants is expected to take about a year, said Jon White, an SPC engineer who's working on the project. For now the land will lie fallow while nature takes its course. Once the entire project is complete, White said, there will be an environmental center and boardwalk that can be used for classes and opened to the public as a nature walk and educational center.


Delaware teachers participate in biotechnology weekend workshop

From UDaily, www.udel.edu

Fifteen Delaware public school teachers met at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the University of Delaware's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes Feb. 20-22 for a “biotechnology weekend.”

Sponsored by Delaware's National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) outreach program and the DuPont Office of Education, the three-day workshop was offered to middle and high school teachers (grades 6-12).

Harsh Bais, an EPSCoR-funded assistant professor in the University of Delaware's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, whose lab is based at DBI, spoke to the teachers about his research group's work on invasive plant species [such as Phragmites australis] and the molecular biology of those species. Link


National Forests in N.C. approves non-native invasive species control

From the Citizen-Times.com

ASHEVILLE – Forest Supervisor Marisue Hilliard, has approved a strategy to control non-native invasive plants on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

Native plants can be overrun by invading non-native plants. It is this group of plants land managers are attempting to control with the approval of this project.

The project will annually treat up to 1,100 acres of non-native invasive plants using a variety of methods. Manual or mechanical methods may include the use of shovels, loppers and saws.

Where appropriate, herbicides will be directly applied to target plants using spot treatment methods. Areas to be targeted will include legally designated rare species, rare plant communities, and/or areas including unique habitats.

“It is estimated there are over 25,000 infested acres across the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests” said Gary Kauffman, forest botanist.

The decision to implement this project provides managers with the flexibility to quickly respond to non-native plant infestations that pose a direct threat to the Forest’s native ecosystems.

Some of the species of particular concern on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests include Oriental bittersweet, princess tree, privet, and Japanese honeysuckle.

For more information regarding the project decision and environmental assessment, visit www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc.



Battle to control water milfoil on Cazenovia Lake (NY) leads to new fee for boat access

By Alaina Potrikus, The Post-Standard

Cazenovia, NY -- Village leaders have made some changes to last year's Cazenovia Lake boat launch policy in hopes of protecting the lake from invasive species, nearly doubling the price of access by adding an environmental impact fee and promising 100 percent inspection of boats.

The Cazenovia Village Board unanimously passed the amended policy Monday night, adding a $35 environmental impact fee to the $40 cost of the village's base permit for nonresidents using the public launch at Lakeside Park.

Trustees said the money would be used to cover round-the-clock inspections, with security guards from Morris Protective Services during high traffic hours weekday mornings and weekends, part-time employees during afternoons and volunteer staff in the evenings.

The inspections are part of a recent thrust of intermunicipal cooperation to help limit the impact of Eurasian watermilfoil, a weed whose presence has spread exponentially in recent summers. Town leaders have applied for a state permit to use the pesticide Renovate in sections of the lake this spring, a chemical that has had success in killing milfoil in Saratoga Lake and several of the Finger Lakes.

The eradication process will be paid for with both public and private dollars, and village officials said the increased fee would help keep other invasive species from becoming a problem in the future.

"The entire community is making an enormous investment in the health and quality of the lake," said Trustee Kurt Wheeler, who helped put together the plan for 2009. "It is reasonable that those who come to use the lake contribute as well.

Steve Wowelko, chairman of the Onondaga Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said $75 seems steep.

"It will preclude the casual person who might come fishing once or twice from coming at all," said Wowelko, whose organization donated $1,000 for ramps at the park last year as a goodwill gesture from sportsmen in neighboring Onondaga County. "The local businesses will be hurt because people won't be coming."

Dan Bishop, director of fisheries for the state Department of Environmental Conservation's regional office, said nearby Otisco Lake has a remote car-top boat launch as well as several privately owned access points that charge $8 to $10 to launch. The state considers that lake to have full public access, and stocks the waters and manages the habitat, Bishop said.

"That's thought of as being a reasonable launch fee," he said. "In the case of Cazenovia Lake, the restrictions are much more severe. (A $75 permit fee) makes it much more prohibitive, much more discriminatory."

Trustee Paul Brooks questioned whether enough permits would be sold to cover the cost of the inspection regime. Last year, the village sold 248 permits at $40 each. The village banked this year's plan on selling 220 permits, with an anonymous lakefront donor covering the $2,200 shortfall.

"In an economic year like this, a doubling of the permit fee could yield 50 percent of what you had last year," Brooks said. "If people only fish here two or three times a year, they might go somewhere else instead."

The park will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 2 through Labor Day. In the fall, the launch will be supervised on an as-needed basis, to accommodate people taking their boats off the water.

Trustee Tom Tait said the hours could be altered to match the available funding.
"It's got to be a collaborative effort, and people will pay their part," Tait said. "Eurasian milfoil is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to invasive species." Link


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