The Berkshires is a haven for thousands of hikers, kayakers and cross country skiers annually. However, the landscape is also home to other less welcome guests: invasive plants.
To combat this threat, The Nature Conservancy launched a multi-year conservation initiative, Weed it Now (WIN), to remove non-native, invasive plants from more than 9,000 acres of the Berkshire Taconic forest. Since the program’s inception in 2002, the Conservancy has worked with 75 landowners and treated invasive species on 8,500 acres of land, including portions of America’s most famous path, the Appalachian Trail.
Through the support of Congressman John W. Olver (D-MA), and Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, WIN has received $45,000 to continue this effort from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“The work of the Nature Conservancy and its partners is so important because this area is one of the healthiest and largest contiguous forests in the northeast," Congressman John Olver said. “At the start of this project, more than half of the forest was invaded by six different non-native weeds, which, if allowed to proliferate, would repress the regeneration of the forest and reduce the richness of native species. The removal of invasive weeds will help ensure that the forest and its vibrant population of rare species are preserved for future generations.”
"We are deeply gratified by the strong support given to invasive species control by the Massachusetts delegation" said Jason Miner, Geoffrey Hughes Director of The Nature Conservancy's Western Massachusetts Program.
Non-native, invasive species are recognized as extremely costly to both native flora and fauna, and to private and municipal pocketbooks. According to Harvard Professor Edward O. Wilson, next to the actual destruction of habitat, invasive species are the second greatest threat to rare species. The United State Department of Agriculture estimates that the annual cost of invasive species to the national economy at over 10 billion dollars, predominantly in lost agricultural and forest productivity. Invasive species can also significantly reduce forest regeneration.
The Nature Conservancy has identified the three-state Berkshire Taconic forest as one of the healthiest and most biologically diverse in the Lower New England Ecoregion, which stretches from Maine to Virginia. In an effort to protect the forests and wetlands from further invasions, the Conservancy has been implementing a comprehensive invasive plant removal strategy throughout the region for many years, in partnership with many other organizations, businesses and individuals.
One of the largest-scale removal efforts attempted in the Northeast, the WIN initiative has targeted invasive species threats to the forests of the region, including Japanese barberry and garlic mustard. Like many other invasive plants, both these species crowd out native plants, and if left uncontrolled, permanently alter the structure and composition of healthy forest, significantly impacting populations of both common and rare native species.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
(617) 227-7017, ext. 305