Monday, December 12, 2011

Forest Service unveils new invasive species plan

Morgan Simmons in KnoxNews (Knoxville, Tennessee): Oriental bittersweet. Japanese knotweed. Gypsy moths and emerald ash borers. Invasive species like these cost the American public an estimated $138 billion each year, and nowhere are the stakes higher than on the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

This week the agency published its first national-level plan to fight the invasion. Characterized in the report as a "catastrophic wildfire in slow motion," the infestation of nonnative plants and animals is a paramount concern among public land managers across the U.S., especially as ecosystems are stressed by factors such as drought, climate change, pollution, and increased wildfires.

The new policy calls on the U.S. Forest Service to be proactive in working with other agencies to control invasive species. The plan stresses the need for early detection and rapid response in controlling invasive species populations that have depleted water supplies, poisoned wildlife and livestock and directly impacted thousands of native forests and rangelands.

Each year the Cherokee National Forest treats invasive plant species such as kudzu, oriental bittersweet and paulownia on about 500 acres. A recent nonnative arrival to the 640,000-acre forest is Japanese knotweed, which forms dense thickets and alters natural ecosystems.

As a result of a recent environmental assessment, the Cherokee National Forest has the go-ahead to use chemical and biological controls on 600 acres hardest hit by the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny insect from Asia that was discovered in the Cherokee National Forest — as well as Great Smoky Mountains National Park — in 2002...

The old Caldwell farmlands in Cataloochee, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Noland Mountain rises in the distance, shot by Brian Stansberry, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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