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Community Conservation: How Volunteers Are Making a Difference in Invasive Species Control at Fontenelle Forest

article by Shawna Gorman, Conservation Specialist

Invasive species aren’t that big of a problem at the Forest…right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Non-native plants and animals can cause long-term damage to the economy, environment and even human health.

Not all non-native plants are created equal. The most noxious are awarded the title of ‘invasive.’ Here at Fontenelle Forest that means tree of heaven, honeysuckle, autumn olive, and oriental bittersweet, to name a few.

Invasive species cost the United States roughly 2 billion dollars a year. Fontenelle Forest’s Land Management team engages in invasive species control regularly, dedicating over 300 hours of volunteer time each year to protect against diminished land use, displacement of native species, and biodiversity collapse.

Targeted large-scale intervention is key to managing these invaders. Once they are established, invasive species become harder and more expensive to control. They outcompete native plants by emerging earlier and growing longer. This provides them a significant advantage and allows for rapid takeover.

Volunteers are an integral part of our initiative to treat and control invasive species at Fontenelle Forest. We have a group of dedicated volunteers who work with the Land Stewardship team for three hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Additionally, each month we host a three-hour Saturday volunteer workday as well.

Fontenelle Forest has been fortunate enough to work with corporate groups, university students, and local schools. These volunteers have identified, cut, pulled, and treated thousands upon thousands of invasive species. However, invasive species are a never-ending battle. Without these individuals, who come from all backgrounds and vary in age, we would only be able to accomplish a fraction of what we do.

Next time you visit Fontenelle Forest or Neale Woods, see if you can spot some non-native species and some areas that may have been cleared of invasives by volunteers. Will you be able to spot the difference?

If you are interested in supporting Fontenelle Forest invasive species management or other land stewardship efforts through volunteering, please contact Shawna Gorman.

Fontenelle Forest is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit.

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