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Got Invasives? Comprehensive New Website Could Help Stop Their Spread

A new website provides information on invasive species that threaten Vermont, both those that are well known, like the emerald ash borer (left), and those less known, like hogweed. (Photo of emerald ash borer: Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service. Photo of hogweed: Terry English, USDA APHIS.)

When it comes to invasive species, most Vermonters are familiar with the state's big three: the Asian longhorned beetle, the hemlock wooly adelgid and the emerald ash borer, all of which menace the state’s forests.

But what about the countless other invasives gaining a foothold in Vermont – from starry stonewort to the sirex woodwasp to the Asian clam – that could also damage the state’s ecosystem and economy?

A comprehensive new website three years in the making, Vermont Invasives, aims to familiarize Vermonters with this expanded cast of invaders, as well as boost their knowledge of the three forest pests, with the goal of curtailing their spread and even eliminating some. 

“Many Vermonters want to make a difference in stopping the growth of invasive species,” said Gwen Kozlowski, education and outreach coordinator at UVM Extension, which partnered with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to create the site.

“The new website will make it much easier for them to identify invasive species and take action,” she said. “We need homeowners and people from the community to be out front on this issue working in partnership with the professionals.”

"Report It"

The website is ablaze with color photos and loaded with precise descriptions of the growing number of invasive species that threaten Vermont’s landscape. Divided into two sections, water-based invasive species and land-based invasive species, it contains photo galleries of of 49 terrestrial plants, 17 forest pests and 10 aquatic invaders. 

One of the site’s most important features is its “Report It” function, which allows citizen reporters to upload photos they’ve taken of potential invaders and send them directly to experts at the state, an effort that could be vital in providing intelligence on the Asian longhorned beetle, which is not yet in the Vermont, and the emerald ash borer, which has not yet been found.              

The site also provides information on how to manage invasive species that are here and outlines concrete steps to prevent new ones from entering the state. A key preventive measure:  firewood, which can contain the larva of invasive pests under its bark, should never be transported more than 50 miles from its source.

Reason for optimism

While stopping the spread of invasive species can seem like a daunting challenge, there are a growing number of success stories, Kozlowski says.  

Thanks to a strong outreach effort and citizen involvement, for instance, the Asian longhorned beetle been eradicated in Chicago. Early detection of the emerald ash borer combined with yearly pesticide treatment can save affected trees.

Closer to home, a team dedicated to managing invasive plants in Vermont's southwestern state parks and forests, the Habitat Restoration Crew, has worked with student volunteers from Castleton Village School to successfully remove invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn and replant with native species.

Other success stories can be found on the website of the Vermont Association of Conservation Commissions.

Spring is a good time to put the new website to use, Kozlowski said. The early leaf-out and flowering of the season make invasives stand out.  

Vermont Invasives was funded with a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Conversation also contributed to its development.