Wednesday May 15, 2013

GUILFORD -- In March, town voters approved additional financial backing for the fight against invasive species.

Now, Guilford Conservation Commission members are gearing up for that effort. They’ve targeted five invasive plants, and they’re planning to host workshops and to assemble an inventory of tools to deal with the problem.

As commission members noted in a presentation this week, invasive-species eradication is not the only activity on their agenda for fiscal year 2014. But Chairwoman Linda Hecker said invasives have become the commission’s "top priority."

"The main thing is to educate the public -- the landowners, the people who live in Guilford -- about what invasives are and what they do," Hecker said.

Town Meeting voters authorized $1,000 for "organizing the efficient management of invasive species in Guilford."

"We were really pleased with the way the voting and discussion went at Town Meeting," commission member Linda Lembke said.

The commission’s focus is on invasive plants, five of which are detailed in a recent brochure:

-- Japanese knotweed: A shrub-like perennial that can grow 10 feet tall or more, knotweed "spreads quickly to form dense thickets that exclude native vegetation and greatly alter natural ecosystems," officials said.

There has been greater concern about knotweed in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene’s severe flooding in August 2011. The commission’s brochure says the plant "can survive severe floods and is able to rapidly colonize scoured shores and islands."

-- Multiflora rose: This plant "can form impenetrable thickets that exclude native plant species," officials said. "Birds eat the fruits and disperse the seeds that are still viable after passing through the digestive tract. Arching canes that reach the ground can take root and form new plants."

-- Japanese barberry: Its growth is minimal in mature forests with low lighting, but this plant "can grow quickly after timber harvests or blowdowns when light increases," the commission says. "Barberry can grow so thickly in woodlands that few native shrub and tree seedlings or herbaceous plants survive."

-- Asiatic bittersweet: It is described as "an aggressive deciduous vine that grows rapidly on mature native trees and other vertical structures." Humans help spread the seeds by using the plant in wreaths.

-- Common buckthorn: A deciduous shrub or small tree that can reach 25 feet tall, buckthorn "can form extensive monocultures in open woods, pastures, fencerows, roadsides and in the understory of flood plain and riparian forests, replacing native trees and shrubs," officials said.

More information on these and other invasive plants is available at www.vtinvasives.org.

Hecker said the conservation commission plans to enlist experts to host five workshops in different spots around Guilford.

"Each will be targeted at a specific invasive," she said.

The commission also will put together a "lending library" of tools to better handle removal of invasive plants. That may happen sooner than the start of next fiscal year, Hecker said.

"We thought we might get a head start by buying some of the tools with this year’s (remaining) funds," she said.

Commission members detailed other activities in a meeting with Guilford Selectboard on Monday, including:

-- While focusing on invasive plants, commission members also want to enlist someone to serve as a volunteer "forest-pest first detector" for Guilford.

The first detector would be tasked with helping prepare the town for dealing with invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer and Asian long-horned beetle.

"It’s a statewide effort," Hecker said. "There is training available."

Anyone interested is asked to contact Caitlin Cusack at 802-656-7746 or caitlin.cusack@uvm.edu.

-- The conservation commission also will undertake a natural-resources inventory of Guilford’s plants, animals and other natural features.

"That’s a big project. It’s a many-year project," Hecker said. "Other towns have done it. Dummerston did a fantastic one a few years ago. They really set the gold standard."

-- Guilford Selectboard on Monday appointed Susan James as a new member of the conservation commission. Another member likely will be added shortly, Hecker said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.