Nature Center responds to questions about invasive species management

To the Editor:

We are writing in response to a Letter to the Editor that appeared online in the Heights Observer on June 30 that questioned the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes’ invasive species management approaches.

We appreciate the author’s concerns and wish to clarify our position on the use of pesticides at the Nature Center.

Non-native, invasive species are a threat to native biodiversity in all parts of the world. This also holds true here at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Steady increase in the growth of the narrow-leaved cattail and other invasive species over the years has been well documented and has reduced the native biodiversity in the marsh substantially by creating a monoculture unable to support a large variety of wildlife. It is the Nature Center’s goal to ensure the long-term biological health of the wetland habitats in the Doan Brook watershed. The best way to do this is to restore our wetlands habitat to a more diverse vegetation community by eliminating non-native invasive species and reintroducing a diversity of native plants.

While the Nature Center generally does not condone the use of pesticides or herbicides, and in fact encourages a non-chemical approach to residential lawn care through the Laudable Lawn program, we have recognized that restoring the marsh to a more natural, native state is within the mission of the organization: to conserve a natural area, connect people with nature and inspire environmental stewardship.

The Nature Center received a two-year grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency through the Cuyahoga County Surface Water Improvement Fund. The Nature Center announced the Marsh Restoration Project last September and held a public meeting to explain the project and address the concerns of our neighbors. An additional update meeting was held in March. Announcements for both meetings were made through regular channels of communication, via our newsletter, our website and notifications sent to the media. The next meeting is to be scheduled in October.

It cannot be assumed that herbicide is being used each time you see a backpack sprayer. Acetic acid, or vinegar is sometimes used as an effective weed killer, as conditions warrant. The crack willow trees (Salix fragilis), also an invasive species, will be girdled rather than cut down, so as not to disturb any animals that are now using them as a home. The dead trees will be left standing, and in fact will provide habitat and a food source for wildlife for many years to come. Several different species of native trees have already been planted to replace the crack willow trees.

With the unusually rainy spring we experienced severe flooding that was not expected. Dead cattails that were being composted on site were unintentionally washed out in the flood. Spraying is conducted during periods of dry weather, and timed during the growing season when it will be most effective on the plants being targeted. Signs are posted on the boardwalk at the Nature Center on days that spraying will occur.

The Nature Center takes its conservation efforts very seriously and is committed to providing a safe environment for our visitors, fauna, and native flora. With this in mind, our policy is to follow the guidelines of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, which aims to minimize the use of pesticides and maximize the use of natural processes in controlling invasive species. The decision to use herbicide in the marsh was carefully weighed through a committee of experts and input from several local, regional, and national conservation organizations. The herbicide we use (Rodeo) is used sparingly and only as a last resort when hand-pulling, cutting, or other treatment methods are determined to be ineffective and impractical. Unlike Roundup, the herbicide that many people use in their own back yards, Rodeo is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in aquatic habitats.

The concepts of IPM, including herbicide application, are outlined in our own pesticide policy, and are commonly practiced by the National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/nero/ipm/pestinfo.htm), The Nature Conservancy (http://www.invasive.org/gist/handbook.html), Cleveland Metroparks(http://www.clemetparks.com/Naturalresources/invasiveplants.asp), and many other land management agencies in Ohio and across the United States.

For more information and to follow the progress of the Marsh Restoration project, please visit http://shakerlakes.org/blog/.

Kay Carlson and Wendy Donkin

Kay Carlson, Executive Director
Wendy Donkin, Marketing Manager

Read More on Letters To The Editor
Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 11:15 AM, 08.09.2011