Monday, November 9, 2009

Week of November 9, 2009

Invasive plant species threatens shore plants, animals, dunes

Gannett New Jersey
November 10, 2009

An invasive foreign plant is rapidly making inroads in New Jersey's critical dune systems, and Louise Wootton wants to stop it in its tracks.

Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi) — a "scruffy little plant" — threatens to take over the habitat of endangered and threatened species, such as the piping plover, according to Wootton, a biology professor at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.

The sedge also can result in lower dunes, lessening their ability to protect communities from flooding, Wootton said.

"It changes the ecosystem completely," she said.

The Brick resident has enlisted about 25 students from Georgian Court, Marine Academy of Science and Technology on Sandy Hook and Brookdale Community College in Middletown to help study the sedge, map its extent and study ways to get rid of it.

She wants government permission to begin eradicating the invader, which is rapidly making inroads on Sandy Hook, at Island Beach State Park and in some other beach areas.

The plant has no known predators or diseases here, she said.

"Delay is expensive," she said. "It's ecologically expensive and it's economically expensive, and that's a message we want to get out to the townships, too, because they are really good stewards of their dunes."

Wootton, who has studied invasive species for 12 years, is not alone in asking for the green light to fight Asiatic sand sedge. The yellow-green plant was first spotted in the United States in Island Beach State Park in 1929 but has mushroomed in recent years, according to Wootton.

The Asiatic sand sedge has out-competed, or is threatening to out-compete, native plants in areas where endangered and threatened species live or may live, according to a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Such species include the piping plover, an endangered beach-nesting bird.

Meanwhile, the large-headed sedge, another invasive plant, has also been found in New Jersey, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal agency wants the DEP, at a minimum, to allow the removal of invasive plants in threatened and endangered species habitat through herbicide spraying, hand-pulling or other methods.

DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura had no comment on the letter.

"Aggressive invasive"

The Asiatic sand sedge is a perennial plant with deep roots that grows on coastal dunes and the upper areas of beaches, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service letter.

It forms a dense mat and drives out native plants, such as American beach grass and beach panic grass. It also invades the habitat of the piping plover, the threatened sea beach amaranth plant and other species.

The plant is "invading sites in New Jersey at a rapid rate," the Fish and Wildlife Service says. It occupies more than 90 acres in Island Beach State Park and on Sandy Hook.

Asiatic sand sedge populations also have been found in Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, Manasquan, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and other locations.

"It's a very aggressive invasive," Wootton said. "It's one of the top 25 most unwanted species in New Jersey."

Digging and pulling out sedge plants by hand has been successful in controlling small infestations, according to the Alien Plant Working Group. But that method may not be feasible for larger efforts.

Wootton said the plant's roots are 3 to 4 feet deep, and hand-pulling is very labor-intensive and does not eliminate it.

Herbicides such as Rodeo kill the sedge down to its roots and are much more effective, she said.

"The damage that's done by the sedge is so much greater than responsible use of . . . Rodeo," she said. "We find that we're able to use very, very low amounts because we're using it with a backpack applicator, which allows us to be very specific in the application."

The National Park Service is looking into whether there are better alternatives than Rodeo, she said.

Science lesson

Alex Kloo of Manasquan, a 16-year-old junior at M.A.S.T., is performing tests to find the lowest effective level of Plateau, another herbicide, to kill Asiatic sand sedge with the least environmental damage. The park service does the spraying at Sandy Hook, he said.

Kloo got involved in the project because "it's so close to home for us," and he thought it would be "a great chance to make a big difference in the fight against" the plant.

"I love the beach," he said. The environment is "such a huge problem now" and environmentalism "should be a top priority and in a lot of people, it's just pushed to the wayside."

Read the article at link.

Photo by PCA Alien Plant Working Group.


New Jersey lags on plan for combating invasive species

STAFF WRITER, Asbury Park Press
November 9, 2009

New Jersey is more than four years behind schedule in finishing a plan to combat invasive plants, animals and other organisms that threaten our environment.

But the plan should be ready within a few weeks or so, said John S. Watson Jr., deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

"We believe (invasive species are) a problem that needs our attention,'' Watson said. "We do see significant forested areas that are impacted and we do need to make sure that we pay attention to it."

Some areas are "probably too far gone, but then we're going to be focusing on areas where we can really have an impact in eradicating those species,'' he said.

More than five years ago, then-Gov. James E. McGreevey signed an executive order creating a New Jersey Invasive Species Council. The council was charged with submitting a New Jersey Invasive Species Management Plan to the governor by June 2005.

The idea was to come up with measures to "combat these dangerous invaders and protect the state's biological diversity," according to a 2004 statement. [...]

Watson said the invasive species plan will list species believed to be most invasive.

It will recommend that retailers and landscape growers "reduce the availability of those species,'' he said.

Asked why the plan has taken this long to complete, he said "the short answer is there was a lot more work than was anticipated in getting the report done and our job was to get the report done right," not rapidly.

Read the article a link.


“Invasive Species: Change and Dollars” Conference

A broad coalition of agencies and organizations will host a lively, high-profile summit on Jan. 10-14, 2010 in Washington, DC, to:

Call attention to invasive species issues – targeting Congress and Federal agencies
  • Generate action – empowering new policies and adequate funding
  • Build a national grassroots network – working together to limit the impacts of invasive species

Titled “Invasive Species: Change and Dollars,” the conference will be organized thematically and in the context of securing adequate resources to address invasive species in a time of global change. The three inter-related themes are:

  • Climate Change
  • Energy (including biofuels)
  • The “Green” Economy
Organizers: The event is organized by a national, bi-partisan coalition of groups representing private citizens, local and state natural resource and agriculture agencies, academia, professional scientific societies, environmental organizations, and businesses such as nurseries and the pet industry that are affected by non-native, invasive species.

Attendees: Notable spokespersons, Federal agency and Congressional leadership, and leading experts in climate change, energy, and the “green economy” will be invited to present information, recommendations, and responses. It is expected that several hundred people from across the U.S. will attend this inaugural event. Broad media coverage will be arranged.

Invasive species (harmful non-native species) are one of the most significant drivers of global change. Consequently, they can have substantial impacts on the economy, infrastructure, and human health. Thus far, funding, legal authorities, and personnel have been inadequate to address the problem. For the U.S. “green agenda” to be successful, the government must address invasive species as a priority.

Visit the North American Weed Management Association website for more information.


Coast Guard wants to toughen ballast water controls

Standards could be 1,000 times more strict by 2016

By Rona Kobell
Chesapeake Bay Journal

More than 20 years after the first zebra mussels hitched a ride into the Great Lakes, the United States still doesn't have a requirement to treat ballast water coming into the nation's ports from ships.

Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard are thinking about changing that. The agency has proposed a rule that would require ship owners to install treatment systems to reduce the number of organisms released into the water.

The current proposal calls for an initial phase that would match the International Maritime Organization standard, which has been in place since 2004, limiting the number of organisms allowed in the ballast tanks to 10 per cubic meter. But, beginning in 2012, the Coast Guard is calling for the phase-in of a new standard that would be 1,000 times stricter, allowing for only one organism per 100 cubic meters of water for all ships.

Both environmentalists and shipping companies welcome some form of standard, although they don't agree on how strict it should be, said Cmdr. Gary Croot, chief of the U.S. Coast Guard's environmental standards division. Environmentalists and regulators want the stricter standard to be implemented right away, while shipping companies would like more time.

Dealing with ballast water has been a murky issue since 1972, when it was initially regulated, then exempted, by the Clean Water Act.

Ocean-going cargo ships typically draw in water while in ports to stabilize their vessels at sea, then let out the water when they arrive at their destination. During the long journey, many of the organisms living in the ballast tank die. But hardy invaders live on, and they bring reproducing populations into new bodies of water that can devastate native species. [...]

Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD, have identified more than 170 nonnative species that have established self-sustaining populations in the Bay, many of which are believed to have arrived in ballast water. Because of such concerns, a Bay Program task force in 2001 issued a report that called for federal action to regulate ballast water. [...]


Deer culling operation in Connecticut

By Robert Miller
Staff Writer,
Updated: 11/07/2009 01:16:10 AM EST

RIDGEFIELD, CT -- The plot of open space is tucked between big new homes. The neatly trimmed fairways of Ridgefield Golf Course lie nearby.

But in the early hours of the morning, and again as the afternoon turns to dusk, a hunter sits in a deer stand high above the ground, compound bow and arrows at the ready.

When deer cross the open space -- lured by corn used as bait-- it's fair game.

The spot is one of 11 that hunters have chosen in the town-sanctioned effort to knock down Ridgefield's white-tailed deer herd by at least two-thirds -- from levels of about 60 deer per square mile to no more than 20 deer per square mile.

It's a take-no-prisoners operation.

"This isn't a hunt,'' said Stefano Zandri, the hunt master. "It's a deer culling operation.''

That is, it's an organized attempt to kill as many deer as possible using a dedicated core of hunters and feed as a lure to bring deer within range of the hunters' arrows.

And judged by that criteria, it's a success.

More deer were killed by bow hunters in Ridgefield than in any other town in the state in 2008. In 2009, it's in the lead again, with Redding second and Newtown third. No other towns in the state come close.

But at least one group of neighbors -- while not opposed to hunting deer per se -- find this year's move to expand the hunt to the Lynch Brook Lane subdivision much too close for comfort. They have asked the Board of Selectmen to suspend the hunt in their neighborhood until they have a chance to make their case in public.

"My daughter's swing set is 6 feet away from where they are hunting,'' said Madalyn Dyott, one of the Lynch Brook neighbors who oppose the hunt on the 18 acres of land that borders their homes. "I'm at a loss to understand this. It cannot be what was intended.''

In response, Tom Belote, chairman of the town's Deer Committee, said the Lynch Brook Lane neighbors are exceptions in their objection to the hunt, which is entering its third year, expanding from one site to 11 in the those years. Once people understand what the hunt is about, he said, they want it to happen.

"We haven't had any incidents or accidents and we haven't lost any deer,'' he said.

Ridgefield isn't alone in trying to sort out these issues.

Throughout the region, the same thing is happening in Brookfield, in Redding, in Wilton and at the Devil's Den Nature Preserve in Weston.

Newtown is considering establishing its own hunt.

The premise is simple. There far too many deer in the landscape and no predators to keep the herd in check.

That throws the environment out of whack -- the deer damage the forest ecosystem through over-browsing and play a major part in the spread of Lyme disease, hunting proponents say. When drivers hit them on the roads, it can total the car as well as the deer.

And because humans largely created this imbalance, they say, they have a responsibility to do something to reverse it.

"People talk about being good stewards of land, as it's humans over here and nature over there,'' said Patricia Sesto, co-chairman of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer management Alliance. "But humans are part of the environment.''

"The overpopulation is so severe that it will take an intense and ongoing culling,'' Belote said.

There are people who oppose hunting on principal. For them, the expansion of the hunt within individual towns, and to new towns -- is disheartening.

"It's very disturbing,'' said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. "It makes me incensed.''

For Feral, such "deer culling operations'' are nothing more than an effort by the state Department of Environmental Protection to make money by peddling hunting licenses.

That's because all the deer hunt will do, is create better, less grazed habitat, Feral said. That means the deer that do survive will have more offspring, and quickly repopulate the area.

"I think it's a knee-jerk sign,'' said Laura Simon, field director of the urban wildlife program of the Humane Society of the United States. "People think doing something is better than doing nothing.''

But Simon said these hunts won't really change the imbalance of nature that now exists -- especially in the reduction of Lyme disease.

"It's really deceiving people,'' she said, pointing out that other animals -- especially white-footed mice -- play as large a part in the life cycle of the ticks that spread Lyme disease.

The reason for opening even relatively small parcels of town-owned open space up to deer hunts is simple: that's where the deer may be hanging out. If towns really want to make a serious reduction in the size of the herd, said Michael Gregonis, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Protection, they have to be willing to let hunters on that land. Where towns have allowed intensive hunts, deer numbers are going down, he said.

That's the key,'' he said. "Hunters have to have access.''

In Ridgefield, there have been few complaints prior to those registered by the residents of Lynch Brook Lane. But when the Board of Selectmen voted in September to expand the hunt from 7 sites to 11 -- including Lynch Brook Lane -- she became so angry she contemplated quitting her post.

Manner said she opposes hunting in general. But she said the Lynch Brook Lane neighborhood is so residential that it makes no sense to have hunters -- even bow hunters shooting down from stands -- use the land.

"This isn't winter,'' she said. "It's fall, people are out walking.''

One of the objecting neighbors, Suzie Scanlon, said no one in the neighborhood knew that the selectmen had opened the space to hunting until they read about it in the newspapers.

"I think we should have received notice and had a chance to express our safety concerns.''

"My daughter is in pre-school,'' said her neighbor, Rajal Young. "The open space is in our backyard. I just don't think it makes sense here.''

In response, Belote said the Deer Committee has agreed to limit the hunt to the half of the Lynch Brook open space area that's a less trafficked wetland. Since that's the portion of the open space that butts up against Madalyn Dyott's land, that change probably won't mollify the neighbors.

And the basic issue -- how to control an out-of-control deer herd in a suburban town -- remains.

"A lot of people think 'Hunting is great,'" Stefano Zandri said. "'Just not in my backyard.'"

Read the story at link.


Essex County (NJ) executive gains unanimous support for proposed 2010 deer management program

By Office of the Essex County Executive

Essex County (New Jersey) Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the six municipalities where the Essex County Deer Management Program will be conducted have approved resolutions supporting the 2010 program. [...]

"Culling deer from our reservations is a very controversial and emotional issue and we thank the governing bodies from the six municipalities for allowing us the opportunity to explain our program and for providing their support. The local elected officials understand continuing our Deer Management Program is essential to protect our open space and prevent our reservations and forests from being destroyed by deer overbrowsing," DiVincenzo said. [...]

Read the full story at link.


New Brochure: "Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants: A sustainable solution for Long Island horticulture"

Long Island, New York is one of many locations throughout the U.S. that has taken progressive steps towards improving the environment by reducing the spread of invasive plants. Invasive plants have damaged Long Island’s unique woodlands by replacing native flora, and in turn, negatively impacting wildlife and natural ecosystem processes. Invasive species are among the top causes of biodiversity loss across the globe.

You can be part of the solution, by growing and planting alternatives to ornamental invasive plants! These plants were selected based upon their similar ornamental characteristics and cultural requirements compared to the invasives.

Alternative plants may be native or non-native, but are not invasive. Alternative plants are well adapted to Long Island, and many are readily available at Long Island nurseries. You can help make the future of Long Island greener by growing these “native-friendly” plants!

A new brochure entitled "Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants" was recently developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Download a pdf copy of the brochure at link.

There is an additional brochure entitled "Invasive Plants: Frequently Asked Questions for Long Island’s Horticulture Professionals" that is available for download at link.

For more information, visit:


New woodland invasive species subject of Elmira, NY talk

Learn about the history and diversity of invasive species and how the Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer will affect the area in the years to come at a presentation next month.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, New York will present a talk on New Invasive Species at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in Conference Room 110 of the Human Resource Building, 425 Pennsylvania Ave. in Elmira.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP by calling (607) 734-4453.


Forest program on biological control of invasive plants set by Rutgers Extension

By Terry Wright
Somerset Reporter
November 10, 2009

A forest management/stewardship program called “Biological Control of Invasive Species in New Jersey” will be held Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office of Hunterdon County, 6 Gauntt Place (off Route 31), Raritan Township.

It’s designed for woodlot owners and anyone with an interest in forestry and/or wildlife management.

Dr. Mark Vodak, forestry extension specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, and Mark Mayer, supervising entomologist, N.J. Department of Agriculture will speak. Topics to be discussed include a brief overview of the mission of the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Laboratory; biological controls for hemlock woolly adelgid, mile-a-minute weed, purple loose-strife, and gypsy moth; and current and future biological control projects.

Why these particular species are of concern, how to identify them, the management or control practices developed by the Lab, and the success of these practices will be the focus.

There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion.

Pre-registration is required. To do so, or if you have any questions, call Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office of Hunterdon at 908-788-1339. Registration deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 18.



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