Invasives Strike Force: Summer Crew

 

2015 Invasives Strike Force Summer Crew

 From left to right: Brian, Justin, Linda (Program Coordinator), Cody, Shelby (Crew Leader)

 

Brian Miglorino 

Brian recently graduated in May 2015 from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, with a Bachelor's of science in Environmental Science and a minor in Geographic Information Systems. He is an avid hiker/backpacker who hopes to "thru-hike" the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine beginning in March of 2016. His future goals include obtaining a master's degree and continue working within the environmental field conducting research. His general interests include playing music, attending live music, backpacking, and learning everything he can about the world around us.

 

Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis graduated from Drew University in May of 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Environmental Studies and Sustainability and a minor in Anthropology and Biology. For several years prior to beginning work at New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, Justin completed small-scale ecosystem and habitat restoration projects with his academic advisor and other individuals, as well as built and maintained hiking trails that weave through many of New Jersey’s wonderful nature preserves. In his free time, Justin enjoys hiking and camping, attending live concerts and music festivals, and spending time with his beautiful friends and family. He wishes to obtain a doctoral degree while continuing ecological fieldwork and research. Some of Justin’s other interests including learning about the intricate connectedness of our universe and spreading happiness through “Dad jokes” and puns.


Linda Rohleder (Program Coordinator)

Director of Land Stewardship and Coordinator of the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM). In 2013, Linda received her PhD in Ecology from Rutgers University, where she studied the effects of deer on forest understories. While attending graduate school she worked as a park ranger in Monmouth County, NJ and taught beginning biology labs at Rutgers. Before returning to school, she worked for many years at AT&T as a project manager and software developer. Linda built the Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force volunteer program. By 2014, the program had about 200 trained invasives-mapping volunteers who collectively had surveyed more than 870 miles of trail for invasive plants. She has organized invasives-removal workdays in parks across southern New York and northern New Jersey. Linda also has spent more than 10 years creating a native plant wildlife habitat in her backyard.


Cody Mendoza 

Cody Mendoza is part of the 2015 Invasive Strike Force team and has been controlling invasive species for 5 years. He graduated in December, 2010 from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry with a Bachelors of Science in Forest Health. Before working with the NY NJ Trail Conference he worked with The Nature Conservancy in Pulaski, New York in the Lake Ontario watershed and the National Audubon Society in Trabuco Canyon, California at the Starr Ranch preserve. His professional goals for the season are to improve his botany and leadership skills. He enjoys working outdoors, hiking and camping and foraging for plants and fungi. His personal goals for the season are getting better at juggling, archery and fishing and learning how to do the 4x4 rubiks cube.


Shelby Timm (Crew Leader)

Shelby graduated from Marshall University this past May with a Master’s of science in biology and had previously obtained her Bachelor’s of science in zoology from Kentucky Wesleyan College in 2013.  Her graduate research focused on shifts in amphibian life history strategies in response to stress.  Shelby enjoys working with a wide range of species and expanding her experiences. Her goal is to focus her career on preserving and restoring native habitats, which is why she wanted to work with the ISF crew removing invasive plant species from priority areas throughout New York and New Jersey.  Shelby enjoys hiking, biking, and traveling as much as possible.  This is her first time in either New York or New Jersey and she is enjoying all the area has to offer!

 

 VOLUNTEER WITH THE INVASIVES STRIKE FORCE CREW

 

 VOLUNTEER WITH THE ISF CREW FOR A WORK DAY OR WORKSHOP

Protecting parklands throughout the Hudson Valley


The Trail Conference's Invasives Strike Force (ISF), started in 2011, is a project is born out of the ideas, learning and experiences of a joint project between the Trail Conference and Rutgers University from 2006-2009 that was supported by the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) to better understand the spread of invasive plants in forested parklands. Project goals include travelling to various recreational areas and preserves throughout New York and New Jersey and working to control populations of invasive species present. This will promote biodiversity and an overall more healthy ecosystem. We will schedule trail crew work at these target locations and work to prevent and reverse the invasion along our trails.

Our Invasives Strike Force volunteers are supported during the summer by our seasonal crew which helps train volunteers, leads removal work days, and carries out additional removal projects with our park partners.

Bring your lunch, plenty of water, sturdy workshoes, and long pants. Tools, materials, and training will be provided.  

PLEASE CONTACT US TO VOLUNTEER

 Trail Crew Trips: Summer 2015

 

Join our crew on the trails! We're holding volunteer work days on these dates:

May 2 – Old Croton Aqueduct, Ossining, NY
May 3 – Delaware Water Gap, Columbia, NJ - garlic mustard pull
June 6 – Bear Mountain, NY – National Trails Day
June 13 - Rose Preserve (WLT), Lewisboro, NY
June 20 – Stokes State Forest, Branchville, NJ
June 21 – Stokes State Forest, Branchville, NJ
June 27 – The Invasives Project-Pound Ridge, Pound Ridge, NY
July 11 - Harriman State Park, NJ
July 12 – High Mountain Park Preserve, Wayne, NJ
July 19 – Westchester Land Trust preserve, Pound Ridge, NY
July 25 – Delaware Water Gap NRA, Columbia, NJ
July 26 – Delaware Water Gap NRA, Columbia, NJ
August 15 – Wawayanda State Park, West Milford, NJ
August 16 – Norvin Green State Forest, Ringwood, NJ

 

RSVP Required. Please contact [email protected] for detailed information, including meeting place and directions.

 

Crew Updates

 
Farewell August 17, 2015
 
All of us on the New York New Jersey Trail Conference's Invasive Strike Force crew would like to express our gratitude for the help we have been given this work season by our amazing volunteers we have had the pleasure of working with. We would not have been as successful in our efforts had it not been for the onslaught of helpful hands there to back us up the whole way. Working to promote biodiversity in these preserves and on these hiking trails has been no easy task, but is some of the most rewarding work when we're able to look back on the good times we have shared and the differences we have made in these ecosystems. 
 
We will look back at this summer with fond memories and hope you can all say the same as we push forward to take on the arduous task of removing as many invasive plant species as we can and keep our forests healthy and full of natives! 
 
Thank you again for all of your help and dedication and we look forward to working with you all again next season!
 
Feel free to read the blogs below that we have kept from this past season and reflect on how far we have come!
 

Henry Morgenthau Preserve - 8/1/15

On the 1st of August, we travelled to the Henry Morgenthau Preserve to remove invasive species from the roadside, as well as from some deer exclusion fences. By the road, there were a vast array of invasive species that were removed including Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Japanese Barberry (Berberis), Privet (Ligustrum spp.), Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera japonica), and Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiclatus). After having these invasives mowed down and providing them with a healthy dose of herbicide, the roadside can now let in some native species to attract the eyes of anyone wishing to enjoy the entrance to a beautiful preserve.
 
Inside the preserve, we were able to gain access to three deer exclusion fences that are used to keep the deer from consuming all of the native plants from the area. If invasive species are able to spread into these fenced-off areas, it defeats the purpose of their existence as the invasive species would hinder the health of the plants sought out to conserve. This is what made our presence in this area so important to the health of the preserve. We were able to remove a significant amount of Burning Bush, Honeysuckle vine, Oriental Bittersweet, Privet, and some others from these plots, which will in turn, reduce the amount that sprout up next year. All in all, we had a productive day at the Henry Morgenthau Preserve and we can't wait to see how our work affects the invasive species presence next year!

Example of a Deer Exclosure Fence

Mianus River Gorge Preserve - 7/30/15

On July 30th, 2015 we made our way down to the Mianus River Gorge in Bedford, New York. On this particular day we were excited to use weed whacker machines for the first time. It was on our agenda to use the weed whackers to remove Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) from the side of the roads throughout the preserve. This was to make sure cars and hikers don't aid the spread of the grass and bring it to different areas of the preserve. Japanese Stiltgrass begins to seed around late summer, so it was imperative to catch it before the seeding process went underway. 
 
Pushing the grass back from the road sides with the weed whackers proved to be an effective method of control. We saw that by pushing it back, we were greatly reducing the rate in which this plant could grow and move across open areas with little understory. The problem with this invasive plant is that it tends to create a monoculture and overshadow every other plant present, whether it's native or non-native. While this preserve didn't necessarily contain a complete monoculture, it was certainly the most ubiquitous plant present in the understory, which is the exact opposite of what a healthy ecosystem in this area should contain. In order to promote biodiversity, we must combat invasive plants such as Japanese Stiltgrass and make sure our forest understory contains a healthy mix of native species that will give rise to happy and cheerful flora and fauna for everyone to enjoy!
 

ISF Crew About to "Whack" some Japanese Stiltgrass

Delaware Water Gap - 7/24-26/15

On July 24th through the 26th, we travelled down to the Delaware Water Gap to work on a few trails removing invasive plant species. On the first day we hiked up the Garvey Springs trail to scout for Mile-A-Minute Vine (Persicaria perfoliata). Expecting to find nothing more than a modest population, we ended up discovering an extensive, well-established overgrown area. This patch of Mile-A-Minute completely overtook a population of Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), blocking all of the sunlight for them to perform photosynthesis. Aside from matting out the surrounding Blueberry patches, they had already begun to climb the tree trunks in the area. Luckily, we were able to spend the rest of the day removing this infestation and making sure these Blueberry bushes are able to get the sunlight they need to flourish in a healthy manner. 
 
The next day we made our way over to the Kaiser trail with a few volunteers by our side. It was our duty on this day to push back any invasive species we spotted along the trail. We made our way up about 1.5 miles and found ourselves face to face with a large patch of Japanese Barberry (Berberis). We decided to simply push the patch back away from the trail rather than try and remove every individual we spotted due to the large number as well as the need to work in many different sections of the trail. After working on the Barberry, we made our way back towards the trail head and worked on removing Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), Multiflora Rose (Rosa Multiflora), and more Barberry individuals. This was a lot of work to do and we were happy to be accompanied by some passionate volunteers who were willing to make the trek out there to aid us! 
 
On our last day, we were thrilled to work on the Appalachian Trail once again with a couple of volunteers to give us some help. Hiking up to the Raccoon Ridge area of the trail, we worked on removing once again, populations of Japanese Barberry, as well as some Mile-A-Minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata). This particular section of the trail was relatively full of natives, sans the few sections we decided to focus on. We were happy to come in and improve the trail quality for through-hikers and section-hikers from all over the world and allow them to witness the beautiful healthy and diverse ecosystems this area of the country has to offer! 

Volunteers with Crew at the Delaware Water Gap

 
Large Patch of Mile-A-Minute Vine with Fruit

Zofnass Family Preserve - 7/19/15
 
On July 19th, 2015, we were accompanied by an onslaught of volunteers that were excited to work hard and remove a vast array of invasive saplings near the main trail head of the Zofnass Family Preserve. It was imperative to have a lot of attentive hands on duty as manually removing saplings takes a lot of searching and is very easy to overlook small individuals and patches. We scoured the forest floor in search of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Japanese Barberry (Berberis), Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum), Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius), as well as others. 
 
With so many different species at hand, we had a full day of pulling and were able to teach some helpful volunteers important identification skills as well as the importance the removal of invasive plant species. Biodiversity is key to a healthy ecosystem and removing the dense patches of invasive saplings before they mature and produce seeds is one of the best ways of making sure everything stays in check and a healthy set of native species is able to thrive in a given area. We certainly would not have been so successful without the help of our amazing volunteers! 
 
 
Crew and Volunteers at the Zofnass Family Preserve 

 

 High Mountain Park Preserve - 7/12/15
 
On Monday, July 12th, our crew travelled over to High Mountain Park Preserve in New Jersey to scout around for invasive species and remove any we could get our hands on. With a few volunteers by our side, we were able to locate patches of Barberry (Berberis), Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius), Mile-A-Minute (Persicaria perfoliata), and Black Swallowwort (Cynanchum louiseae). With only these few spots of invasive species throughout the preserve, it was easy to see that this particular plot of land was relatively free of invasives in a lot of areas. There seemed to generally be not a lot of undergrowth beneath the trees and the places that did have understory present mostly contained grasses such as the invasive Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). 
 
With this place containing little undergrowth, we walked up and down the trails making sure we took care of any patches of invasives we saw. This mostly consisted of removing any large patches of Barberry that were visible from the trail, as well as a small patch of Black Swallowwrt from near the summit. It is important to combat these invasive species before they grow in numbers too much in areas such as this. Instead of waiting until they become an issue in areas that contain little understory, it's best to take care of as much of them as possible before they are able to establish any decent-sized population. Too bad for these invasives, our Invasive Strike Force crew got here before they were able to; better luck next time!
 
ISF Crew and Volunteers at High Mountain Park Preserve
 


American Canoe Association and Adirondack Mountain Club camps - Harriman State Park - 7/11/15


On July 11th, we had our largest volunteer day to-date at the American Canoe Association and Adirondack Mountain Club camps located in Harriman State Park. We spent the day working on a quiet road just off of the beautiful Seven Lakes Drive, working on the invasive Barberry (Berberis). With large patches spread out on the road, we had our crew alongside ten other volunteers to tackle the project head on. This narrow road tucked back in the woods sees a lot of traffic during the summer season as members of these  camps drive in and out at all hours of the day. Because there are so many campers that care about this area, we had a lot of volunteers who were passionate about helping out in the removal of these bushes and were willing to step up and put in a great amount of effort to push this species back a step or two. 

With a substantial amount of force coming from so many hands, we effectively pushed the Barberry patches away from Seven Lakes Drive and worked our way down the road. It was not possible to remove every patch we saw, but we made sure to move it back away from the road as to reduce any possible spread along the road way. After our productive day we were able to enjoy the new scenery and celebrate with a delicious cook-out at one of the camps. Barberry will effectively persist around this region of the United States, but with determination we can make sure it does not create a monoculture all over the place and we can attempt to keep our forests as diverse as possible in the future. 

Volunteers Working Hard at the ACA in Harriman

Using Innovation to Take Care of Barberry


Appalachian Trail, Wingdale, NY - 7/6/15


On July 6th, 2015, we joined the National Park Service's Northeastern Region Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT) while we worked on the Appalachian Trail in Wingdale, New York. Our main duty of the day was to take care of an invasive plant we had not yet worked with and push it back from the trail so hikers don't disperse the seeds on their boots as they're hiking along the trail. The seeds of this plant are sticky so transport by hikers was a real concern. This particular plant was called Salvia glutinosa, which is native to Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Western Asia. This patch of Salvia glutinosa was previously treated by the National Park Service and had shown to be responding to the treatments well, with only a few large patches still present in the area. The year before they seemed to cover the entire trail and take over the competitive understory in the area. This year, it was a huge difference which was a refreshing sight to see. Some of these patches were rather large, so it was our task try out foliar spraying for the first time, which would allow us to spray more individuals with herbicide in a shorter amount of time, using backpacking sprayers. 

With the aid of the experienced hands of the National Parks Service crew, we were able to treat every patch we saw in the area and do our best to make sure less and less of this particular plant comes back to the area year after year. This will take time and plenty of monitoring to make sure the hikers have a rich and diverse ecosystem to hike through while they come through this particular area of Southern New York.

Salvia Glutinosa



Zofnass Family Preserve - 6/28-29/15

 

Sticking around the Pound Ridge area of New York, we spent the next couple of days in the beautiful Zofnass Family Preserve. This expanse of dense forest holds many trails that can be appreciated by hikers of all ages as they generally aren't too difficult and have little elevation gains throughout. Most of our time there was spent taking care of Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), as well as patches of Barberry (Berberis), Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius), and Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora). 

Again, treating this area gave us a great sense of accomplishment as we watched light burst through the open air into the dense forest which was completely covered moments before we stepped in to take out the invasive plants. Instead of the dreary, damp, and dismal presence these areas seemed to give off, they now portrayed a serene open atmosphere that showcased a beautiful landscape which can be enjoyed by anyone hiking along these great trails. Moments like these are what we hold dear to our hearts and give us the initiative to continue with this kind of work and promote a rich, healthy, and diverse ecosystem for animals and mankind to thrive in.

Zofnass Family Preserve Trail Map


Pound Ridge Town House - 6/27/15


On June 27th 2015, our crew travelled back to Pound Ridge, New York to visit the Pound Ridge Town House. This beautiful old building sits on a sublime plot of land next to a small pond that feeds into wooded land. Hiding behind some of these woods was a large patch of Japanese Angelica tree (Aralia elata) also known as Devil's walking stick, which held hundreds of individuals that were not visible from anywhere outside of the trees. This just goes to show that even the most beautiful locations can hold skeletons in the closet. After removing dead stocks of Japanese Angelica trees treated the year before, we dove head first into the large patch and knocked it out cold.

After taking care of that patch of Devil's Walking Stick, and taking a much need pizza break, courtesy of Carrie from The Invasive Project - Pound Ridge (TIP-PR), we decided to switch from removing invasive species and instead planted natives along the road side and nearby hiking trails. Some of these native plant species included sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), and deciduous hollies. This was a real treat for us to be planting instead of removing invasive species, even though both acts are extremely important for promoting biodiversity in a given area. 

Japanese Angelica Plant

Giant Hogweed - 6/25/15

On June 25th, 2015, our crew took on the extremely dangerous and invasive plant Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). Originally brought to the United States as a garden plant due to its beauty and herbaceous scents from the Caucasus region of Eurasia, this plant had spread from plantings, mostly along roads and streams.

This plant has the potential to cause 3rd degree burns with skin contact and can cause blindness if the sap finds its way to the eye. This plant is taken seriously enough for the state of New York to prohibit all possession of Giant Hogweed with intent to sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce, or propagate it. Although this plant has rather large leaves and tall, stocky flowers, it can sometimes blend in with its surroundings and become difficult to spot amongst ferns or other native species. If spotted, it would be in the best interest of everyone to report it to the Department of Environmental Conservation by e-mail ([email protected]), or by calling the Giant Hogweed hotline at 1-845-256-3111.

Since this plant shouldn't be taken lightly, we outfitted ourselves in tyvek suits and rubber boots to avoid any skin contact with the leaves or sap. Travelling to five different locations out of the known eleven sites in this general region of the Hudson Valley, we were careful to wash all of our tools and boots in between each location as to not transport any sap along with us. We discovered that at one site, the treatment that was done the previous year was 100% successful as we found no plants throughout the plot. Others however, did contain some new plants and were promptly treated as to not spread to other areas or contaminate anything in its surroundings. Fortunately, since we were working under the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), we had the help of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC-DEP). Along with their crew, we also had Tom from Trillium Invasive Species Management, inc. to help us out with removing plants and spraying herbicides. It was certainly helpful to have the aid of so many other people, especially when dealing with a plant that can cause so much damage to a human being from one single exposure. 

The seriousness of this plant cannot be stressed enough and should be reported by anyone who notices even an individual plant. There are many different species which look similar to Giant Hogweed including Cow Parsnip, Angelica, Queen Anne's Lace, and Wild Parsnip. To see some additional similar plants you can visit the DEC website at: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/72766.html. 

Giant Hogweed Flower

Hogweed Flower Compared to Human Height

Crew in Tyvek Suits Next to Hogweed Flower

Carefully Cutting the Flowers

Hogweed Leaves Compared to Human Height 


Stokes State Forest 6/19-20/15


Making our way down to New Jersey, we visited Stokes State Forest on June 19th and 20th. Scouting around for invasive species on the first day, we discovered that this forest is extremely healthy compared to others we have visited. The numbers of invasive individuals was drastically smaller and it seemed to hold a healthy and diverse population of native plants. This was our initial assessment until we reached a section of the trail completely taken over by Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). We decided then, that this is where we would be working instead of our initial spot which seemed to only contain a few small patches of Barberry (Berberis). We spent the rest of the afternoon removing a few Barberry and Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) individuals, clearing up one section of the trail so we could focus on the Autumn Olive section with the help of the volunteers the next day.

After a night of camping (with surprisingly no rain), we woke up and met our crew of three volunteers that would be joining us for that work day, one of which was Jennifer who worked on the New York New Jersey Trail Conference's Invasive Strike Force crew last summer. This was a great treat as we were able to have another experienced individual to help out on this heavily invaded section of the trail. Having a slew of hands working on this Autumn Olive tree is what aided us in our success at this site. These trees grow tall and tend to have heavy stems with rather large diameters. This was the first time we had almost everyone on our crew working with the hand-saws at the same time. With many yells of "TIMBER!" we were able to remove a significant number of these trees and clear up the path to bring in more sunlight and views of the pond being hidden behind the invasives. Now as hikers and bikers move up the path to the beautiful wooden bridge over the stream, they can enjoy a healthy population with more biodiversity and a much more pleasant atmosphere.

 

Sunset Over Lake at Stokes Campground

Autumn Olive Trees Cut Down

ISF Crew With Volunteers at Stokes

ISF Crew on Wooden Bridge at Stokes


Frederick P. Rose Preserve - Westchester Land Trust - 6/12-14/15


Our next adventure took us to the Westchester Land Trust in Westchester County, New York to work on the Frederick P. Rose Preserve. This particular plot of land was so invaded, that we spent three whole days there working in different sections and even utilizing the help of volunteers on June 13th. The first day we spent there we worked on a large patch of Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) that seemed to have taken over an old rock-walled structure. This particular patch had grown to contain large trees that were at least three to four inches in diameter in some spots. Our method was basal-bark these trees, which simply means to spray the herbicides 360 degrees around the trunk and allow it to feed into the root systems through the soil and effectively kill off the plant. We will have to wait for our next visit to see how effective our efforts were on this particular section.

The next day on the 13th we were accompanied by a few lively volunteers who assisted us in removing Mile-A-Minute (Polygonum). We spent the day in a Deer fence used to keep them out of the area and preserve the ecosystem of the preserve. Unfortunately, it was necessary to go in there and remove the invasive plant species that decided to take over instead of the Deer. We made a lot of progress with the help of the steady hands of the volunteers and removed as much Mile-A-Minute as we could. In my humble opinion, it looks as though the preserve should look now that many of these invasive plants are out of there. 

 On June 14th, our last day at the Westchester Land Trust, we spent our time removing Barberry (Berberis) and Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) from the trail to try and open up the area for hikers who wish to wander through the preserve. The section of the trail we worked on was almost completely closed up due to these plants taking over the area and looked as though it was virtually impervious in some areas. With some use of our muscles and loppers, we were able to extract some thick bushes of Barberry and Multifloral Rose and open up the trail. It certainly looks more inviting and does not contain as much of a thicket as it once did. 

Crew at the Frederick P. Rose Preserve
 


Appalachian Trail - Harriman State Park - 6/8/15


With the accompaniment of the Minnewaska New York State Parks crew, we ventured over to Harriman State Park again working along a section of the Appalachian Trail. We spent the entire day removing a plethora of Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) patches along the trail that were becoming a nuisance to hikers trekking through the area. Although beautiful, this tree grows tall and blocks out the sunlight for every other species in the area, taking over large plots and leaving no room for any other plants to thrive. After completing our work in a small section it was easy to tell just how much sunlight this tree blocks out of the area to take for itself. Removing just one plant was enough to open up a large plot of land to be utilized by other native plants. It was truly inspiring to gaze at the plot we had worked on at the end of the day and witness the complete difference in demeanor the area took on with the removal of the Linden Viburnum.  

Crew Getting Ready for a Hard Days Work 
 

Storm King/Harriman State Park - 6/7/15


On June 7th, 2015, we took our next trip to the beautiful Storm King State Park in Orange County, New York. At the start of this hike, we were presented with quite a surprise when we checked on a patch of Japanese Angelica (Aralia elata) trees that were treated the year before. What we found was that they had been burned seemingly by a controlled fire because none of the other trees in the surrounding areas had been touched by the fire. It seemed as though it was intentional but we can't be sure as we don't hold any records of such fires occurring. With a short hike up to the top of a hill, it was easy to understand why this was such a popular hiking spot as we made it up to an incredible outlook showing the Hudson River and other mountain peaks all around. We spent half of our day there removing any invasive plants along the trail including Barberry (Berberis), Wine Berry (Rubus phoenicolasius), Swallow-Wort (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), and Japanese Angelica, which seemed to only be in small secluded patches out in open areas. All in all, this spot wasn't as invaded as a lot of other sites we have visited, but will still need to be checked up on in the coming years to make sure these invasive plants continue to stay in control. 

Later on, we headed over to Harriman State Park for the second time to finish the job we started taking care of Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius). This time we were able to pull up and herbicide any bushes we were able to see that were left from our last visit. With that area now clear, what's left to do now is make sure it doesn't come back in full swing next year, or open up new territory for another invasive species to take over.

Crew With Awesome View at Storm King

 

Trail Days - Bear Mountain - 6/6/15


On June 6th, 2015, REI and the New York New Jersey Trail Conference held the annual National Trails Day just outside of the Bear Mountain Inn. National Trails Day is a nation-wide event held to raise awareness of the importance of hiking trails and the need for volunteers all over the country to help in the process of keeping them maintained. This particular event drew in many volunteers who helped out our crew at the base and on the summit of Bear Mountain. Our crew, along with a group of volunteers ventured over to the base of Bear Mountain along the Appalachian Trail to remove large patches of Barberry (Berberis). With the help of all of the volunteers, we were able to remove large bushes that were an eye sore for every person passing through on the trails. Now, as hikers stroll down the Appalachian Trail, they'll be able to peer out over Hessian Lake instead of having a wall of invasive plants blocking their view. 

After finishing our work at the base of Bear Mountain, we ventured up to the summit at Perkin's Tower to continue our Barberry removal. With the beautiful views surrounding us on all sides, it's easy to see why this mountain was packed with visitors on this sunny Saturday afternoon. With the abundance of travelers as well as wildlife in the area, cutting back the numbers of Barberry individuals present will create a much cleaner atmosphere in terms of ecosystem health and aesthetical value. We removed a good chunk of what we found up there but will likely have to revisit next year to remove any that decide to sprout back. Having a slew of volunteers  by our side certainly gave us that extra push we needed to fight back hard against this particular invasive species.

Volunteers at the Base of Bear Mountain

 

Sterling Forest/Harriman State Park - 6/5/15


On June 5th, 2015, we made our way back to Sterling Forest to visit the furnace ruins a second time. On this particular trip, we were accompanied by the New York State Parks Invasive Strike Team (based out of Minnewaska) who helped us in our battle against the invasive Hardy Kiwi (Actinidia arguta). On our last visit to the ruins, we were able to pull up a fair amount of what was present along one side of the stream bank running through the site. This time, with eight different hands working on it, we were able to completely clear off the other side of the stream bank in a rather short amount of time. With only a small number of Hardy Kiwi individuals visibly present in areas too difficult to reach, we will hopefully see a decrease in the numbers of Hardy Kiwi plants next year. With this emerging plant taken out of the picture, the ruins will be more aesthetically appealing to visitors from all over the country who hike the Furnace Loop Trail.

Later that day, after our visit to Sterling Forest, the New York State Parks crew accompanied us over to Harriman State Park to take on the invasive species Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius). Control of this emerging invasive species was initiated last year by us, along with the NYS Parks crew. When these plants aren't in bloom, showing their yellow flowers, they give off the impression of looking dead and out of place and tend to take over large parcels of land, cutting back on the biodiversity of the area. Again, with the help of the NYS Parks crew, we were able to get rid of a large amount of what was present, but unfortunately ran out of time and had to leave some for our next visit. On a positive note, at least this Scotch Broom didn't harm our fingers with any thorns, maybe Barberry could learn a few things from this plant.

 

NYSP Crew/ISF Crew at Sterling Forest


Ruins after Hardy Kiwi Removal 

Scotch Broom Site HM09 in Harriman State Park 


Jones Point - 6/4/15


On June 4th, 2015, we travelled to Jones Point, which houses a beautiful set of trails located in Bear Mountain State Park. This particular spot provides fantastic views of the Hudson River and the Bear Mountain Bridge. With steep elevation gains and plenty of side-trails to enjoy the scenery, our mission was to give aid to the trail maintainers in creating a more enjoyable recreational experience for any hikers coming through the area. In order to do this, we worked on removing any Japanese Angelica (Aralia elata) trees we found that were within ten feet of the trail. With its long and thorny trunks, it's easy to understand why this plant was given the nickname "Devil's Walking Stick". Native to eastern Russia, China, Korea, and Japan, this plant was introduced in the United States in 1830, mostly due to the spread of its seeds by birds who tend to have taken a liking to the fruit produced by the trees. 

We found that Japanese Angelica (Aralia elata) was a huge problem in this particular area. It is possible this is due to heavy foot traffic on these trails which could potentially contribute to the spread of seeds. What makes this particular plant difficult to work with is the extensive root systems underneath the soil. As a result of their root patterns spreading so far away from the trunk, it makes the method of pulling nearly impossible. The most effective method of killing an individual is to herbicide the trunk so it spreads throughout the root systems underneath the soil. This makes it difficult to determine how effective your work has been until a separate trip is made to the site to examine the effects. Our hope is that our recent trip to this location will be more successful in pushing this species back and stop it from spreading too far and creating a dense thicket along the trails. These views in this particular area are too gorgeous to be blocked by the "Devil's Walking Stick", we hope to create an area with walking sticks useable by all visitors.


Japanese Angelica Leaves


Schunemunk - 5/30/15

 

On our third trip, we traveled to Schunemunk on May 30th, 2015. We were accompanied by two volunteers who provided us with an incredible amount of help in our attempt to extract many different invasive species including Barberry (Berberis), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), and Japanese Angelica (Aralia elata). In this part of the park there is an expanse of open field and woodlands that extend over train tracks and an array of gorgeous waterfalls and streams. 

Again, along with physically pulling out these plants by their roots, we applied a small amount of herbicide when necessary. This is another area home to a vast array of wildlife, as we experienced a deer sighting and a finding of some shed snake skin. Unfortunately, after working very hard at this site, many invasive species continue to persist in mass amounts, particularly large patches of Barberry. This is the most Barberry we had seen in one single area in our field work so far. There is certainly a lot of work left to be done here, but that will not discourage us from our goal of controlling these invasive species and making sure they don't spread too far. Last time the Invasive Strike Force crew visited this plot they successfully eradicated 122 individual Japanese Angelica trees (Aralia elata), as we only found five remaining individuals on our recent trip. Success such as this is what drives us to reach our goals and persist in the fight against invasive species throughout New York and New Jersey.

 

Crew/Volunteers Out in the Field

 

Bear Mountain - 5/29/15

 

Accompanied by a brigade of volunteers, the Invasive Strike Force crew visited the Perkin's Tower area of Bear Mountain on May 29th, 2015. Our main goal was to clear any patches of Barberry (Berberis) present on the summit and remove any brush piles created in the past years that were an eye sore to hikers and travelers passing by. With the help of the Parks department of the state of New York, five large truck loads of Barberry were extracted from the surrounding area and clear, open space was reopened to be aesthetically appreciated by any people passing through. 

Although we had gotten a bit distracted by the amazing wildlife in the area (even if it meant coming in close contact with a Copperhead snake) it was time for us to get to work. The volunteers and our Invasive Strike Force crew were able to utilize their muscle strength and pull out most of the Barberry patches by their root systems. When this was not possible we were able to resort to the extremely precise and careful application of herbicides. This was to ensure that any roots that were left in the soil were not able to sprout back next year.

There has essentially been a love-hate relationship with this particular plant around the Bear Mountain area. In the early years of the park, Barberry was intentionally planted and used as a barrier for certain protected areas of the Bear Mountain Zoo and around Perkin's Tower, that they wished visitors to stay clear of. This seemed as though it would act as the perfect fence due to its abundance of thorn-covered stems and "bushy" presence, which acted as a wall to deter any trespassers from attempting to enter. Although this particular plant does create somewhat of an impervious layer, it has shown to be quite the invasive species, taking over several popular hiking and scenic areas throughout New York and New Jersey. 

Barberry has certainly lived up to its name as a useful plant to keep others away. The issue with it is that it does its job too well. It creates a cap over the soil, keeping native plants from gaining access to essential nutrients in the soil and the sunlight they need for photosynthesis. This is why when one looks at an area containing Barberry, it usually is not accompanied by any neighboring plants. Us Americorps members and the rest of the New York New Jersey Trail Conference will continue working hard in our quest to control this and other invasive species and put a stop to any damage it has done to the biodiversity of the native vegetation along the east coast.

 

 Loading Plant Scraps onto Parks Truck 

Crew/Volunteers on top of Bear Mtn.


Sterling Forest - 5/28/15

 

 The first excursion for our Invasive Strike Force crew was to the beautiful Sterling Forest furnace ruins in Tuxedo, New York on May 28th, 2015. This area contained an unbelievable blast from the past as we worked directly next to the furnace ruins eradicating the species Hardy Kiwi (Actinidia arguta) that took over the stream bank running through a plot of land right off of the Furnace Loop trail. 

While we were there, we observed piles of dead Hardy Kiwi that were left behind by past Invasive Strike Force crews. They took on the challenge of extracting the vines off of the walls of the furnace remains. Their hard work paid off as we found no traces of any more vines growing back along the stone walls. Our job focused directly on clearing up the stream and creating a much more open area for people to observe not only the ruins, but the abundant wildlife that thrives in the stream (we saw plenty of water snakes and frogs in the area). This not only involved pulling and applying herbicides to cut vines, but a large part of our day was moving a large pile of Hardy Kiwi that was cut the year before. 

This particular plant is an emerging invasive species that is just starting to become a problem in the region and tends to cover areas completely. It so far hasn't spread all over New York and New Jersey, but is certainly something we need to be keeping our eyes on and making sure it doesn't spread around too quickly. This was just one instance where our actions have helped to contain this invasive species and we will work hard to make sure it doesn't spread rapidly into the surrounding areas.

 

Work Site Along Stream Bank Next to Furnace Ruins 

 

Stay tuned for more updates from the crew!

Read all about the work of the ISF crews from 2013 and 2014.