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Invasive Plants at the Catamount Community Forest

The Catamount Community Forest (CCF) is home to a diverse range of native flora and fauna. However, like many other locations in Vermont and beyond, native species in the CCF are competing with invasive plants for life sustaining resources. Often our native species are ill adapted to win this battle and they need our help in monitoring and mitigating the spread of these invasive threats.

Invasives are aggressive competitors which often outcompete native plants, especially on forest edges, the understory of disturbed forests and pioneer tree stands (recently forested from fields). This results in disrupted ecological processes (such as the natural regeneration and succession of forests), a poorer diversity of plants and wildlife, reduced quality wildlife habitat, decreased ecosystem resilience to climate change and diminished ecosystem function.

 

Common buckthorn

What are we doing about these invasives?

Invasive species management in the CCF is spearheaded by the Catamount Community Forest Committee and the Chittenden County Forester, Ethan Tapper. The Catamount Forest Management Plan highlights the threat that invasives pose to the CCF – without controlling them no forest or wildlife management will be successful.

The Plan's invasive species control priorities include monitoring their location and their spread, hand pulling invasives where possible, and using herbicide through cut stump treatment or foliar spray in a careful and targeted way. Herbicides are always applied individually to targeted plants using very low doses. In this way they do not affect any non-target plants or vegetation or pose any risk to wildlife, pollinators or people. Per EPA guidance areas treated with herbicide are closed to the public until the chemical is dry – usually 1-2 hours depending on conditions. Once dry the areas are considered safe for people.

Because of the scale of the challenge posed by invasive plants the Catamount Community Forest Committee and County Forester have adopted a range of management techniques. Some examples are below:

  • Every year the Committee sets aside part of their management budget to pay for professional invasive control. This funds trained and licensed pesticide applicators to apply very low doses of herbicide to targeted plants in closed areas for the forests.
  • The Town brush hoggs area of the forest to keep invasives down. See plan linked here for areas that have been brush hogged to date. 
  • Ethan Tapper sometimes devotes his free time to treating invasives using foliar spray herbicide! Ethan is a licensed pesticide applicator with the State of Vermont and cares deeply about the forest’s health. 
  • Local volunteers hold volunteer work days. For example, in 2022 a member of the Conservation Commission (a licensed pesticide applicator) led the local Scout troop to cut down large buckthorn trees and then treat the stumps with a herbicide (this is known as cut stump treatment). 
  • Members of the Committee lead volunteer days to dig out poison parsnip. This invasive should be treated with care as the sap from the stems can cause skin rashes when exposed to direct sunlight. Volunteers always wear protective clothing. Chapin Kaynor published an article on poison parsnip in June 2022.
  • The Committee have partnered with VELCO to treat invasives in the powerlines right of way in September 2023. VELCO have an easement to control vegetation to protect their infrastructure. They have agreed to treat invasive plants in the right of way at the same time as they treat larger trees or shrubs that may grow into the powerlines. All herbicides will be applied by licensed and trained applicators using ultra-low volume herbicide targeted to specific plants. The herbicide is mixed with a carrier to ensure it sticks to the targeted plant only. 
  • In 2021, the CCF Committee worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do some habitat management for the golden-winged warbler, which included invasive plant control in the project area, all funded by USFWS, in 2021, 2022 and 2023

There is more information on invasive plants on this handy 1 pager!

Upcoming Invasive Treatment

  • August 24: Volunteers from the Planning Commission and Conservation Commission who are pesticide applicators licensed with the State of Vermont will be treating invasives with herbicide.
  • September 4: VELCO will be treating invasive plants along with vegetation that may interfere with their infrastructure in their right of way with herbicide. Licensed applicators will be carrying out the work and there are further details linked here
  • October: Following the September forest management project a licensed contractor will be carrying out herbicide treatment in the managed area, funded by the Catamount Stewardship Fund

What types of invasive plans are in the forest?

Infestation rates by acreage of the main invasive terrestrial plants at the CCF

Invasive

High infestation

(2,000-50,000 stems/acre)

Moderate infestation

(200-2,000 stems/acre)

Light infestation

Common Buckthorn

 

 About 20 acres About 30 acres About 30 acres

 Japanese Barberry

 About 3 - 5 acres  About 20 acres  About 50 acres

 Honeysuckle

 About 5 acres  About 25 acres  About 50 acres

 Asiatic Bittersweet 

   About 25 acres  About 20 acres

It is “important to remember with these numbers that these acreages overlap. Overall, I would consider about 40 acres of the CCF to have a heavy infestation, about 20 acres to have a moderate infestation and perhaps 30 acres to have a light infestation. Other invasives include: Black Swallowwort, Multiflora Rose, Glossy Buckthorn – several plants of each (species) seen.” - Ethan Tapper          

Get involved today!

To learn more about invasive species in Vermont, visit: VT Invasives 

Follow the Catamount Community Forest’s facebook page to stay up to date on management activities at the CCF and learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities!

 
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